Pelosi and Schumer call for economic relief for citizens married to foreign nationals

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Friday called for the next coronavirus bill to grant economic relief to American citizens who file taxes jointly with spouses who do not have a Social Security number (SSN).

“I think this issue of mixed status family is one that we must deal with, but we also must use it as a bridge. I think if American people understood clearly the injustice of it all, they would see the injustice of other kinds of lack of access,” said Pelosi on a call with reporters.

There are potentially millions of American citizens who did not receive stimulus checks, as the $2.2 trillion stimulus package, otherwise known as the CARES Act, made ineligible anyone with an SSN who filed taxes jointly with someone filing under an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN).

ITINs are issued by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and typically used by undocumented immigrants to pay taxes, but are also used by foreign nationals abroad who are required to file taxes in the United States.

American citizen spouses of ITIN users — in the case of undocumented immigrants known as “mixed status households” — are currently ineligible for economic relief under existing coronavirus legislation.

Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) Chairman Rep. Joaquín Castro (D-Texas), who joined Pelosi and Schumer on a call to support the push for more inclusive relief, said the CHC supports including all taxpayers, including undocumented immigrants, in the economic rescue plan.

“The Congressional Hispanic Caucus has been clear that we advocated for using individual tax identification numbers for distributing financial assistance to people in American society, because you have a lot of workers who are using ITIN numbers, some of whom may be undocumented, who are still out there on the frontlines working — many of them in dangerous jobs,” said Castro.

An early coronavirus Democratic proposal included relief not only for the American spouses, but for ITIN taxpayers themselves. However, the proposal was shot down in negotiations with the Trump administration and the Senate GOP.

Pelosi said that Schumer “fought very hard for it” in Senate negotiations, but “we have to get a signature,” meaning President Trump would have to agree to the measure for it to become law.

“That’s why the public awareness of this is so important,” said Pelosi.

“Public sentiment is everything,” she said, paraphrasing Abraham Lincoln. “With it we can accomplish almost anything, without it, practically nothing.”

“When the public really is aware of this it will, I think, undermine any version of the story that the president may want to put out there,” she added.

A softening of Trump’s position on immigrants is unlikely, as the White House has put out an executive order barring new green cards for would-be immigrants abroad, a measure that could include ITIN tax filers married to U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents. He has also hinted at further measures.

The president’s allies are also touting polls, including a Washington Post/University of Maryland poll, that show widespread support for immigration restrictions during the coronavirus crisis.

Still, Democratic leaders over the last week have supported various measures designed to improve coronavirus relief, both medical and economic, for immigrants and minorities.

Schumer said denying economic benefits to the estimated 1.2 million American citizens married to undocumented immigrants amounts to discriminatation.

“All this is happening for no other reason than lack of empathy from the administration,” he said.

 Let’s call it for what it is. It’s a form of discrimination. Republicans and the White House are discriminating against the American taxpayer simply because of who they love,” said Schumer.

Still, Democratic leaders have not said that future coronavirus relief negotiations would hinge on expanding relief to mixed-status family American citizens, or to undocumented taxpayers.

The controversy over mixed-status families is one of several issues important to the immigrant and immigrant-adjacent communities that have come to the forefront. However, rights for these families have not been successfully negotiated into law by their Democratic proponents.

While some members of the CHC have complained publicly that their priorities have not been met, they’ve stopped short of directly criticizing Democratic leadership over its negotiation strategy.

“I don’t want to say the line will be drawn at a certain place, but we cannot continue to exclude large sectors of people,” said Rep. Jesús García (D-Ill.) in a separate call on protecting immigrant workers.

Pelosi emphasized Democratic unity, but set limited expectations saying she supports including undocumented taxpayers in economic and health relief “from an ethical standpoint, from a health standpoint, from a science standpoint.”

But the Speaker hinted at a realistic expectation of including all American inhabitants in future relief packages.

“From a practical standpoint,” Pelosi said, “this is, to me, one of the easiest things that we can do. These are taxpaying American citizens. The fact that they file as a family is just what we’re about — putting families first.

“So I’m not going to negotiate on this call with the Republicans, but I am going to appeal to the American people to join us in saying we need to respect family first — you need to respect the fact that these are citizens and taxpayers,” she added. 

Tags Charles Schumer Chuck Schumer coronavirus relief Donald Trump immigrants IRS Joaquin Castro mix-status households Nancy Pelosi
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