People missing out on stimulus checks because spouses are immigrants

Roughly 1.2 million U.S. citizens did not receive stimulus checks because they are married to immigrants who don’t have social security numbers and joint-filed their taxes.

David Hessell-Cercado, 51, is one of those who didn’t receive a $1,200 government-relief check because his husband does not have a social security number.

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“For me, it felt like a slap in the face,” said Hessell Cercado.

He and Jose, from Michoacán, Mexico, got married six years ago and Jose is nearing the end of the process to obtain his green card.

But the federal government’s $2 trillion CARES Act excludes millions of tax-paying immigrants who do not have legal status and their U.S. citizen spouses if they file a joint tax return like Jose and David did.

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“I think this was drafted quickly and it wasn’t very well thought-out because it’s penalizing American citizens,” said immigration attorney Alma Rosa Nieto.

She says the reason could be a flaw in the system, but some are confident it’s a deliberate move by Congress because the exception to government-deemed “mixed-status marriages” who joint file are military families.

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“Congress knew what they were doing,” said Hessell-Cercado. “They just decided to exclude us.”

Hessell-Cercado says he was planning to spend the stimulus check at local small businesses and put the money back into the community. He doesn’t feel like, “we’re all in this together” but the Magnolia Avenue Elementary School teacher is grateful he still has work to pay their mortgage and buy food. He says he really feels for families in this situation who have also lost their jobs or are on the front lines of the pandemic.

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“Whether they’re a nurse, a doctor, a grocery store worker, a sanitation worker, and you’re dealing with that stress every single day and then to just realize just last week that you’re not getting a stimulus check, I think that must be awful. A lot of people are really depending on that money.”

Nieto is hopeful the federal government will still take them into consideration.

“I’m hoping that this stimulus package is still flexible and coverage like this will allow the IRS to say, ‘wait a minute. This doesn’t quite work right. Let’s make some exceptions here.’”

She recommends mixed-status marriages who have not yet filed their taxes, do so separately.

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