Exclusive: Marco Rubio Introduces Bill to Give Citizens in Mixed-Status Families Stimulus Checks

Florida Senator Marco Rubio is introducing a bill Thursday that would amend the CARES Act law that provided stimulus checks to Americans to ensure that U.S. citizens married to someone who is undocumented and kids with a U.S. citizen parent are still able to receive money, Newsweek has exclusively learned.

The American Citizen Coronavirus Relief Act, co-sponsored by North Carolina Senator Thom Tillis, would amend the CARES Act so that it no longer requires a social security number for spouses filing taxes jointly, but would continue to require one for economic impact payment (EIP) eligibility. As a byproduct of this change, a U.S. citizen would receive the same stimulus check as a single tax filer. Households would also receive $500 for their U.S. citizen child as long as one parent is a U.S. citizen. Families with two undocumented parents would not receive money for their U.S. citizen kids, however.

"No American should be denied a federal stimulus check because they are married to a foreign national who is not a U.S. citizen," Rubio told Newsweek. "Amid a global pandemic, we must ensure Americans are receiving the funds appropriated by the federal government to keep families afloat during this national crisis."

Rubio was made aware of the issue during a Telemundo interview in May, where he made clear that the law was not written to exclude U.S. citizens based on who they marry, asked for examples of individual cases from the Spanish-language network, and pledged to intervene.

When Newsweek followed up, Rubio's office said he had reached out to the Treasury Department and was gathering information.

Daniel Garza, president of the Koch network-backed LIBRE Initiative, called Rubio's bill "really good news" and "an effort at clearing up an injustice" that never should have occurred. "The fact that you have a U.S. citizen being discriminated against for having a spouse that is undocumented is outrageous," he told Newsweek.

The bill would affect millions of Americans. Texas, California, and Nevada are the states with the highest rate of mixed-status families, where one or more members are undocumented. The Center for American Progress found that more than 8 million Americans have an undocumented family member living with them, including 5.9 million U.S. citizen kids.

"Families who are mixed-status households should not be blamed for a broken immigration system and if they pay their taxes they should be able to get the financial relief they need during this pandemic," said Ali Noorani, of the nonpartisan National Immigration Forum.

He told Newsweek the next step is for Republicans in Texas and Florida Senator Rick Scott to partner with Democrats "to get this across the finish line."

"This should be a no brainer for someone like Senator Cornyn," he said.

Immigrants rights groups are still unhappy that U.S. citizen children with undocumented parents would be excluded from Rubio's bill. In fact, the bill does not include Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITINs) for eligibility, numbers often used by undocumented immigrants paying taxes, "to ensure that taxpayer funded assistance is not being disbursed to those without immigration status or are in the U.S. illegally."

Frank Sharry, founder of America's Voice, who has sparred with the Florida senator on immigration for years, said it's hard to give Rubio any positive accolades because "he betrayed our cause" when he backed away from the 2013 immigration bill he helped craft.

"Marco Rubio is one of the most spineless politicians in Washington but this is a positive step to have Republicans help some families members in mixed-status families," Sharry told Newsweek. "It gives some hope immigrants will be included in further packages."

Garza, who joined a White House call with President Donald Trump and conservative Hispanic leaders last month, also wants Republicans to join Rubio in making the amendment law. He said stripping an American citizen of a benefit conferred to all others based solely on who they chose to marry, "does not uphold our system and sense of equality, undermining personal agency."

"It is an affront to our sense of fairness and we should all call on Congress to avoid repeating similar injustices, in future instances," he said.

Marco rubio
Committee Chairman and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) arrives at the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Hearings to examine implementation of Title I of the CARES Act on Capitol Hill on June 10, 2020 in Washington, DC. Kevin Dietsch - Pool/Getty Images/Getty