MISSION, Texas – The Trump Administration, Commerce Secretary Steve Mnuchin and the Internal Revenue Service have been named as plaintiffs in two separate lawsuits involving so-called mixed families where a spouse is included on joint tax returns. 

The lawsuit has been filed because such families are administratively excluded from receipt of COVID-19 stimulus monies. The first of these were filed last week.

The suit, filed by a U.S. citizen and Illinois resident identified only as “John Doe,” alleges that the ban violates the Constitution and is a form of discrimination “based solely on whom he chose to marry.”

The second was filed yesterday by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund.

“MALDEF filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of U.S. citizens denied #COVID19 relief because they are married to immigrants who pay taxes using ITINs. Excluding mixed-status couples violates constitutional protections for due process and equal protection,” says an article in today’s Dallas Morning News.

While not a plaintiff to either lawsuit, Rebecca Amirah Barragàn, a 22-year U.S. Postal Service employee, is married to a Mexican national and has two U.S. citizen children, Sammy and Ray, who both attend Rio Grande Valley schools.

Her husband Samuel Barragàn, father of her two boys, has applied for U.S. residency but while he waits for the long process to take its course, he resides and works in Reynosa, where Rebecca and the two sons stay on weekends in order to keep the family unit together.

Living a life of crossing borders weekly in and out of one of Mexico’s most dangerous cities, an epicenter of drug cartels and human traffickers is not easy even in “normal times.” The COVID-19 pandemic has added some other ingredients to the mix.

The closing down of businesses, the interruption of commerce, and the breaking of supply chains have resulted in an economic apocalypses that has forced radical measures and responses from the federal government, one of the most publicized being the stimulus check program which has thus far seen families across the United States receive checks of $1,200 per taxpayer and $500 each for dependent children under age 16.

The Barragàn family is being excluded from this program based on Samuel appearing on Rebecca’s tax returns without a Social Security number, since he doesn’t reside in the United States but in Mexico. In a previous interview with The Rio Grande Guardian, Barragàn, the postmaster at a local Valley post office, had this to say about being left out of the stimulus program:

“My husband lives in Reynosa and we go every weekend. We all lived there until August when the kids and I moved to McAllen. He only had a ITIN number because the IRS instructed us to get on so I can file taxes the correct way. He is in the process of applying for his permanent residency. We are doing everything right. It’s like we are being punished for doing the right thing.”

Normally, Barragàn’s children, Sammy and Ray, would be at school while she is working. However, COVID-19 and the shut down of schools in Texas has prompted them to stay home which complicates life for Rebecca Barragàn and her children.

“I only have an hour for lunch so no time to cook anything. Barely have to to run home, drop it on the table, eat and head back to the Post Office,” she related with frustration. “I’m the one running home at lunch going broke on fast food. I hate to think what my kids cholesterol is at this point.”

Barragàn is one of many U.S. citizens splitting time between U.S. and Mexican border cities, because of their marital status. The two lawsuits represent between 1.2 to 2 million U.S. tax paying citizens, the vast majority of whom live in the U.S. permanently. It is estimated that mixed status families contribute in excess of $9 billion annually in tax and payroll contributions.

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