The U.S. government must face a proposed class suit alleging its cash relief payment program for qualified children under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act unlawfully discriminates based on the parents’ alienage, a federal court in Maryland said.
The plaintiffs are seven U.S. citizen children with at least one undocumented immigrant parent, and their parents. They have adequately pleaded an equal protection claim that the CARES Act discriminates against them based solely on the parents’ undocumented status, the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland said.
The minors have standing to sue, even if the payments aren’t sent directly to them, because they alleged they were deprived of funds that would go toward purchasing supplies and other items related to Covid-19, the court said.
The CARES Act provides payments of up to $1,200 for eligible individuals and $500 for each of the individual’s qualifying children under age 17.
But the act requires a recipient to have a social security number, which excludes undocumented immigrants without a work authorization who file taxes with an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number.
As a result, citizen children who have only undocumented parents can’t receive the payments, the plaintiffs allege.
Citizen children who have one undocumented parent and one citizen parent or immigrant parent with a social security number can’t receive payments unless the parents file a 2019 tax return as “married filing separately” rather than “married filing jointly,” which can increase the family’s tax burden, the plaintiffs say.
The government asserts the social security number requirement is a policy choice to provide economic impact payments based on work authorization.
The court said it need not decide whether rational basis or heightened scrutiny applies to the equal protection claim at this stage of the litigation, because under either standard the government’s proffered rationale to date doesn’t warrant dismissal.
It also rejected the government’s argument that sovereign immunity bars the claims.
The Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection and Prof. Leslie Book of the Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law represent the plaintiffs.
The case is R.V. v. Mnuchin, D. Md., No. 8:20-cv-01148, 6/19/20.