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Millions of Mixed Status Families Desperate for Financial Support Are in the Midst of a Political Fight

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Powerful Report from The Marshall Project and The Guardian


A powerful piece of joint reporting from The Marshall Project and The Guardian, penned by Julia Preston, offers a reminder why we need to ensure that mixed status families are included in COVID-19 recovery and stimulus packages. 

Delving into the stories of Roy Wright, an American citizen married to an undocumented immigrant, and Cassandra Casas, daughter of an undocumented father and a mother previously deported, Preston provides a portal into the lives of more than 5.1 million Americans facing the struggle of paying bills and staying afloat with no stimulus in sight. 

Unless Senate Republicans get to ‘yes’ on a stimulus deal and include at least some mixed status families, the Wright and Casas families, along with millions of other U.S. citizens in similar situations, will remain in limbo.

According to Douglas Rivlin, Director of Communication for America’s Voice: 

The goal of any stimulus or COVID-19 relief package should be to cover as many people working, living and paying taxes in the U.S. as possible. The decision by Republicans so far to exclude American citizens living in mixed status families is not just cruel, it is self-defeating. Add to this the millions of immigrant essential workers who have risked their lives to help feed and sustain their fellow Americans and it is clear that we are fighting the pandemic with millions of hands tied behind our backs. 

This week, Senate Republicans negotiating with their Democratic counterparts can take a step towards correcting the narrow approach of the federal stimulus bills so far by including taxpayers like those in the families profiled in these news reports. As Roy Wright, a carwash manager from Baltimore states, ‘I’m an American…I don’t understand why I can’t get my stimulus because I married the woman who I love.’ We don’t understand why Mr. Wright is excluded either and the Senate should act to not only provide relief that has been stalled for months but to correct the injustice of excluding American taxpayers who can and will contribute to our national recovery from the pandemic.

Below are excerpts from Preston’s article, “Why millions of Americans still can’t get coronavirus relief funds:”

At first it seemed like an infuriating bureaucratic error. The message kept repeating when Roy Wright called a hotline to find out when he would receive his coronavirus stimulus funds.

…Wright is an American citizen, but had filed jointly with his wife, an immigrant from Honduras who is undocumented. Because she was listed with her taxpayer number, he lost out on payments for himself and six children – a total of at least $4,900.

‘Man, I could really use that money,’ he said recently. ‘I’m riding around to every church I can to get food. I’m doing what I got to do to survive.’

About 5.1 million US citizens or permanent resident immigrants – 1.4 million spouses and 3.7 million children – are not eligible for stimulus payments because of the exclusion, according to new estimates by the Migration Policy Institute, a non-partisan research organization. Americans who are married to unauthorized immigrants include many health- and home-care workers, teachers and others facing Covid-19 on front lines.

…With so many Americans left out, both Democratic and Republican lawmakers have proposed fixes to reinstate the payments. But the debate on Capitol Hill over a new stimulus package remains mired in negotiations, and time is running out.

…His salary sustains a family of six children, including his wife’s children with a previous partner and two young sons of theirs, both born in Baltimore. He and his wife have been together for 15 years, he says, and four years ago they married. Costly efforts to petition for her green card have stalled in the pandemic, since their income is barely covering the basics.

…‘I’m an American,’ Wright said. ‘I don’t understand why I can’t get my stimulus because I married the woman who I love.’