INDIANAPOLIS — Call 6 Investigates has uncovered hundreds of thousands of American citizens in Indiana will not get their stimulus checks — which for married couples with children, can mean losing out on thousands of dollars in their pockets.
Call 6 Investigates Kara Kenney talked with half a dozen central Indiana women who say they’re being penalized because of who they married.
Jeanette Sanchez is an American citizen living in Noblesville.
Sanchez is married to an undocumented immigrant — the couple and their six children make up what’s called a “mixed status” family.
Indiana is home to hundreds of thousands of mixed status families who will not get a stimulus check, per the CARES Act.
The CARES act says even if you have a valid social security number, if a spouse or a dependent child files taxes with an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) — no one in the family will get a stimulus check, even if most of the family is taxpaying American citizens.
"Honestly it kind of hit me hard. We were not fair warned,” Sanchez said. “We kept checking the page like everybody else just waiting to see what would be able to get it. We need that financial support to take care of ourselves and our children, and it’s just really hard because we’re left out.”
The only exception in the CARES Act — mixed status families with a family member in active military during the taxable year.
Sanchez said it’s a slap in the face, given that her father died while on active duty.
"He would be completely disappointed with this country,” Sanchez said. “Seventeen years serving for this country and to see his daughter and his grandchildren not being helped."
Call 6 Investigates held a Zoom call with other central Indiana women who are American citizens but are not getting stimulus checks because of their partner’s immigration status.
“I just feel we are very discriminated against because of who we decided to marry and have children with,” Selina Borowicz, a McCordsville mother, said.
Selena’s partner of five years is an undocumented immigrant, however, Selina and her children are American citizens.
“It’s so sad that the country I was born in, the country that I love—could do this to me and to other people too,” Selena said.
Florencia Vasquez, of Shelbyville, is married to an undocumented immigrant who lives in Mexico.
“I’ve got four kids, three are born and raised here,” Vasquez said. "We're not fighting for the undocumented person. We're fighting for our rights as an American citizen "
Vasquez is a member of Mixed-status Families United, a Facebook group that has more than 12,000 members currently.
“It’s really hard and it’s really heartbreaking when you’re thinking when are you going to eat today,” Vasquez said.
Sara Borowicz lives in Lawrence and is married to an immigrant and all five of her children are U.S. citizens.
“We are working on doing his paperwork,” Sara said. “We didn’t expect to get anything for my husband seeing he’s not a U.S. citizen. That part wasn’t surprising. The only surprising part was that us citizens were left out.”
Sara and other central Indiana women who spoke with RTV6 said they feel it’s discrimination.
“This is very racist what is being done,” Sara said. “I just hope that we can all be treated equal. I’m tired of discrimination.”
Mixed status families are being hit hard by COVID-19 and unemployment.
Many immigrants in Indiana work in low-paying jobs like meat processing, construction, farming, factories and food service.
Becoming a U.S. citizen isn’t easy — it takes time and thousands of dollars.
The Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic in Indianapolis is helping mixed status families get through this.
"Hope is not lost forever,” Rachel VanTyle, director of immigrant services at the Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic, said. "They also have the option of getting their immigration status in order so they can get a credit on next year's taxes. So at least they wouldn't miss out on it altogether."
Indianapolis attorney Katie Rosenberger is also getting a lot of phone calls from mixed status families.
“This denial has impacted potentially hundreds of thousands of families who otherwise would have qualified,” Rosenberger said. “Many of my clients are in desperate need of support due to layoffs and limited work hours — including single parents and domestic violence survivors.”
Rosenberger is trying to help clients with obtaining their Social Security numbers as quickly as possible.
“At our firm we are also doing the best we can to share resources for assistance with rent, unemployment, food pantries, etc. during this time,” Rosenberger said.
Attorneys are also monitoring a federal lawsuit filed by mixed status families against the Trump administration regarding stimulus checks.
Attorney Andrés Ignacio Fuenzalida is urging his clients to contact their U.S. congressmen.
“You’re kind of dangling the carrot of cash relief in front of people and then you just say you’re not going to get it because of your situation,” Fuenzalida said.
Fuenzalida said keeping stimulus checks away from mixed status families hurts the economy which government leaders are trying to revive.
“If your neighbor is struggling to put food on the table and they’re not being offered money because of their marriage situation, it creates a disparity between the haves and have nots,” Fuenzalida said.
Call 6 Investigates is looking into why this language was put into the CARES Act in the first place.
RTV6 reached out to U.S. Senator Mike Braun.
"The goal of the CARES Act was to help as many Hoosiers as quickly as possible,” Braun said in a statement to RTV6. “We are aware of this and other situations and when Congress reconvenes we need to examine any possible errors from the CARES Act and if legislation needs to be offered to remedy these unique situations."
U.S. Rep. Andre Carson is concerned about mixed status families not receiving stimulus checks.
Carson released this statement to Call 6 Investigates:
The CARES Act is a bipartisan bill, but it's certainly not perfect, as evidenced by this unfair provision within the legislation. I voted for the bill to get relief to as many Hoosiers as possible, as quickly as possible. Since then, I've continued my work to help even more of our friends and neighbors who are struggling during this challenging time. That's why I have supported H.R. 6485, the Recovery Rebates Improvement Act (RRIA), which would ensure that mixed status families receive this support.
The ITIN number is not exclusive to undocumented immigrants.
Here are some other reasons why someone may have an ITIN:
- Nonresident alien who is required to file a U.S. tax return
- U.S. resident alien who is (based on days present in the United States) filing a U.S. tax return
- Dependent or spouse of a U.S. citizen/resident alien
- Dependent or spouse of a nonresident alien visa holder
- Nonresident alien claiming a tax treaty benefit
- Nonresident alien student, professor or researcher filing a U.S. tax return or claiming an exception
Sanchez is still hopeful the federal government will change its tune and issue stimulus checks to families like hers.
"We are fighting for ourselves,” Sanchez said. “We are Americans. We are citizens and we are being punished for whom we chose to fall in love with."
- Mixed Status Families Facebook group
- Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic