Rubio Intervenes for Mixed-Status Families to Get Relief Checks: 'A Person Doesn't Lose Their Citizenship' Because of Who They Marry

Senator Marco Rubio said Thursday that denying coronavirus relief checks to people in mixed-status families is wrong and that he would intervene to find out what's going on.

In an interview with Telemundo, Rubio began by saying that the $1,200 federal payments were going only to people who are in the country legally, adding that "no one here disputed that" because the system has to be based on records of who is in the country legally. But he appeared to be unaware of reports that families where some members are U.S. citizens and others are undocumented are being denied relief checks.

"In terms of denying someone because they're married to someone who doesn't have documents, I don't know where they got that from the law," the Florida senator said, speaking in Spanish. "I would like to know of those cases and intervene, because a person doesn't lose their citizenship or rights as a citizen because they're married with someone that doesn't have documents to be in this country."

Rubio's office told Newsweek that it has received the cases Telemundo reported on to review them and has reached out to the Treasury Department for clarification because the issue is affecting U.S. citizens and shouldn't happen.

At issue is the stipulation in the recent Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act that Social Security numbers must be used to file taxes and not individual taxpayer identification numbers, which are often used by undocumented immigrants.

The controversial decision has led to a federal class-action lawsuit from the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund, which says the law as written "discriminates against mixed-status couples because it treats them differently than other married couples, in violation of the U.S. Constitution's Fifth Amendment guarantees of equal protection and due process."

A spokesman for the IRS told NBC News that Americans in mixed-status marriages will get their stimulus check if they file tax returns separately, which means the money may not arrive for a year.

Representative Joaquin Castro, chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, whose Texas constituents are among the top three states with high rates of mixed-status families, told Newsweek that much time is too long a wait for desperately needed money that is owed to Americans.

"There should be a bipartisan effort in Congress to get the administration to do the right thing for these American citizens, to get them their checks as soon as possible," Castro said. "This was a grave injustice in terms of how the administration interpreted the legislation that was passed."

Castro went on to say that if nothing is done, Democrats should include language in the next bill to correct the problem. He also highlighted a Newsweek report on Latino advocacy groups and others that are scrambling to help Hispanics hurt by job losses and other effects of the virus outbreak.

"It's been good to see social service organizations, nonprofits and religious organizations step up, but that's not a substitution for the U.S. government sending citizens what they're entitled to," he said.

Marco Rubio
Senator Marco Rubio speaks during a Senate Intelligence Committee nomination hearing on May 5. Andrew Harnik-Pool/Getty Images/Getty