Of the many shortfalls of Congress’s pushed-through-too-fast CARES Act, one has seemed particularly misguided: denying economic assistance to people who are U.S. citizens because they’re married to someone who isn’t.

Under the original $2 trillion stimulus package passed March 27, citizens are excluded from receiving aid if they file taxes jointly with someone who lacks a Social Security number. This includes 4.3 million immigrants who pay taxes using an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN).

Hurry and worry make for bad policy, and in this case, lawmakers looked for broad strokes and sweeping categories to allow them to fast-track aid without worry that it might benefit illegal immigrants. That produced a stimulus package that left out an estimated 2 million citizens such as Christina Segundo of Fort Worth and her four children, who are also U.S. citizens.

Had Segundo not filed her taxes jointly (and early) with her husband, who isn’t a citizen but who pays taxes using an ITIN, her family would have received $3,200. Now, they’ll get nothing.

But if the CARES criteria was misguided, so has been the response from opponents.

Segundo has joined a class-action lawsuit filed last week by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund against Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, the IRS and others. The suit claims that CARES is unconstitutional because it violates the First Amendment’s freedom of expression clause and the Fifth Amendment’s due process clause. Neither seems a particularly strong argument to us, though we can see that there might be a case on the grounds of equal protection.

At the same time, California lawmakers have introduced a bill called the Leave No Taxpayer Behind Act, which would not only ensure stimulus payments to citizens in these situations but also to the noncitizens they married.

Let’s be clear: CARES was wrong to exclude U.S. citizens from its stimulus package because of their marital status. It’s a bad policy that needs to be fixed. The government does have a right (and obligation) to be prudent with our tax dollars — after all, even public debt has to be repaid — but it also has an obligation to be fair.

We recommend a middle path: The courts should reject the class-action lawsuit and Congress should not take up the No Taxpayer Behind Act, but it should fix its sloppy work on a CARES Act that excludes American citizens from help.

Four days before the CARES Act became law, we worried that Congress was choosing speed over effectiveness. We recommended breaking up the stimulus package into smaller, more finely tuned segments to roll out over time because, it turns out, it’s hard to spend $2 trillion well. Now, there is follow-in legislation and a lawsuit that prove the point.

• The Dallas Morning News

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(6) comments

Emile Pope

In other words give them nothing, absolutely nothing but a vague promise that maybe, someday, Congress might get around to doing something. Like they did on healthcare? How is that a “middle ground” when one side gets everything they want and the other gets an unclear assurance that is non binding and subject to dismissal at any time?

Carlos Ponce

Personal decisions result in consequences. Christina Segundo-Hernandez's husband, Jose Segundo, is an illegal but as a spouse of an American citizens can apply for legal status. Their oldest child, Terrianna , is 11 years old indicating he's been in country better than 11 years - plenty of time to get documented. Christina works for UPS handling packages. Jose is a construction worker. Annual household income is $56,000.

Now the CARES Act provision has Nancy Pelosi's attention. Looks like she didn't read the bill before voting for it and pushing it through the House.

George Caros

Did the Senate read it I know drump didn't read it. HE CAN'T READ as Rex said what a ------- MORON

Carlos Ponce

The Senate read it, President Trump read it. As to whether "drump" read it ask yourself since George Caros is drump.

George Caros

And scrub,scrub,rinse,rinse followed by Carlos Ponce blow dry

Jose' Boix

To clarify; this statement is excerpted from a similar article in the Chronicle regarding the same family: “It’s been a really hard time. Feeling completely left out of this,” said Christina Segundo-Hernandez, a U.S. citizen and mother of four in Fort Worth, whose husband is undocumented.

Accordingly, as a Cuban born American Citizen who went through the U.S. "Refugee" program, I have a difficult time siding with "undocumented" folks who seemingly - like with this example - have been in the U.S. for some time. Then they get "surprise" when they are not able to get some of the "benefits" made available.

I am also critical of the media as they tend to highlight the issues they are going through, but seldom if ever, they highlight what these folks should have been doing to become "legal." Did these folks work hard to gain "Permanent Residency"?

Refugees can apply for Permanent Resident Alien (PRA) status (commonly known as a “green card”) after they have been in the United States for one year.

Refugees can apply for U.S. citizenship after residing in the United States for five years. Many resettlement organizations have citizenship programs that assist, guide, and encourage refugees through the naturalization process. Just my thoughts.

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