Families of undocumented immigrants file lawsuit against federal government over relief money

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — American citizens who are married to an immigrant and file joint taxes are not eligible for coronavirus stimulus money. Their U.S.-born children also do not qualify for relief benefits under the CARES Act.

Now, a new lawsuit has been filed against the federal government challenging this exclusion. 

Rubi Esparza is living the American dream — or so she thought. The 36-year-old and her Mexican-born husband live in Sacramento with their three U.S-born children.

To support their family of five, Esparza works as a bookkeeper and her husband works as a truck driver. 

But because her spouse does not yet have a social security number and files taxes with an individual taxpayer identification number, Esparza’s entire family is not eligible for coronavirus stimulus money 

“It’s very hurtful because we do pay taxes. Me and my husband work very hard. I feel very discriminated on,” Esparza told FOX40.

Like many other American citizens, Esparza thought her stimulus check would be arriving in the mail. But she’s one of the millions of American citizens and their children who have been denied those payments due to their mixed family status.

“I feel like even though I am an American citizen, my kids are U.S. born citizens, where do we go from here? Who do I go for if I need help?” Esparza said.

The Esparzas are among the families who joined a lawsuit against the federal government, challenging the constitutionality of this exclusion. 

“We started looking around and we started to realize this has happened to 7 million Americans are adversely affected by this,” said attorney Matt Matern.

Matern, who filed the complaint, argued their ineligibility to receive stimulus benefits violates the Equal Protection Clause under the Fifth Amendment, which guarantees all U.S. citizens are treated equally under the law.

“This is a step in the wrong direction by saying, essentially, you’re not allowed to marry who you want. If you marry certain groups of people, you’re not entitled to certain governmental benefits the same as other U.S. citizens. And that’s unconstitutional,” Matern said.

Esparza and her husband are still able to work through the pandemic, although she said her hours have been reduced.

But Matern told FOX40 he represents a number of clients currently out of a job and in need of the assistance to care for their families. 

“Put in the situation of not being able to pay their rent or not being able to buy the food that they normally would buy,” he said.

Esparza said she hopes the federal government will do the right thing and include families like hers when issuing COVID-19 relief. 

“I was raised here,” Esparza said. “I’m a U.S. citizen. This is where I belong — or where I thought I belonged. But definitely, this does make me feel otherwise.”

Matern said he hopes the wording in the CARES Act that makes mixed-status families ineligible for stimulus checks gets stricken.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also weighed in on the matter earlier this month, calling the exclusion a “monumental injustice.”

See the lawsuit in its entirety below:

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