MISSION, Texas – U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says Democrats want to undo a provision in coronavirus legislation that bars families with mixed immigration status from receiving stimulus payments from the Internal Revenue Service. 

This development was reported by media outlets such as the Los Angeles Times, USA Today and the Dallas Morning News

In a conference call today with U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro of San Antonio and U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer of New York, Pelosi discussed a bill that would include relief for the 1.2 to 2 million people involved.  

The stimulus checks which would ordinarily provide $1,200 per adult for married couples and $500 each for dependent children under 16, have already been mailed out to millions of U.S. taxpayers, as Congress and the White House sought to remedy the now recessionary impact of COVID-19 lockdowns around the USA and the world. 

Alexis Olvera

But for some U.S. citizen taxpayers there is a hitch. 

If one member of a married couple filing jointly does not have a Social Security Number but an Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN) instead, there is a provision that excludes payment to the family. ITIN’s are normally given to persons married to U.S. citizens without legal resident status in the USA. 

The Rio Grande Guardian reached out to Alexis Olvera of Pharr, Texas whose family of six is affected by the fallout from the COVID-19 economic implosion. 

“I work at a refinery which because of the virus – and lack of demand for petroleum products – has been shut down for over a month. I have applied for unemployment but that is a very slow process right now. 

And now I’m not eligible for the stimulus money.”

Olvera’s wife, Deysi, originally from Monterrey, Nuevo León is in a slow process of applying for residency. 

“We’re waiting on her files. She had some past difficulties many years ago that must be examined before we can move further,” Alexis Olvera adds with frustration. 

“We have been working to get the tax identification number as a basis for how people would get direct payments,” Pelosi said. “I myself cannot understand why the tax number is not the basis for how some of this money is distributed, so we’ll be making that case.”

So how does a family of six whose main breadwinner is out of work survive without stimulus money and waiting on unemployment survive in the meantime?

“Well, for now it’s from my savings. I put some money away while working in the refinery. I’ve applied for food stamps but that too is backed up. You can’t get through on the phones,” Alexis Olvera said.

The exclusion of mixed-status families from the federal payments is the subject of a lawsuit in Maryland. The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund argues the provision is unconstitutional because it treats married couples of mixed status differently than citizen married couples.

“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,” declared Pelosi at the end of the conference call. 

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above news story shows two of the four children of Deysi and Alexis Olvera of Pharr.

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