The $500-per-child payments established by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act are made as tax credits directly to taxpayers who have valid Social Security numbers, not to their children, the government said in a motion filed Friday. The motion sought the dismissal of a proposed class action against the government.
The suit, filed last May, seeks approval of a nationwide class consisting of U.S. citizen children under 17 who have been denied CARES Act economic relief payments. The group consists of seven American children and their immigrant parents, according to the filing. They are identified only by initials.
Under the CARES legislation, signed by President Donald Trump in late March, individuals can receive a one-time payment of up to $1,200 from the federal government. Married couples who file their taxes jointly are entitled to $2,400 plus $500 per child.
To qualify, individuals must provide a Social Security number to the government. Since undocumented immigrants don't have Social Security numbers, they received no payments, even if their children were citizens.
Denying payments violates the equal protection principles in the Fifth Amendment's due process clause, the lawsuit claims. It also punishes children for their parents' undocumented status and thwarts the act's purpose of providing economic aid to people during the pandemic, it said.
Without Social Security numbers, undocumented immigrants do not have standing to bring suit, the government said. Neither do their children, who have no right to direct payments, it said. Congress has the constitutional authority to deny a refundable tax credit to individuals not authorized to work in the U.S., the government said in its memo.
Congress also has "broad authority" over immigration and can make government aid dependent on the basis of citizenship as long as it has a rational basis, the government told the court. A California federal court recently held that denying stimulus payments to immigrants and their families satisfied a rational basis review, it said, citing Doe v. Trump .
Jonathan Becker, an attorney for the children and their parents, declined to comment.
Legal representatives of the government did not respond to requests for comment.
The proposed class is represented by Leslie Book of the Villanova University School of Law and by Jonathan Lev Backer, Amy Marshak, Mary McCord and Robert D. Friedman of the Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection at Georgetown University Law Center.
The U.S. government is represented by Christopher James Williamson and Jordan A. Konig of the U.S. Department of Justice, Tax Division.
The case is R.V. et al. v. Steven T. Mnuchin et al., case number 8:20-cv-01148, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland.
--Additional reporting by Dylan Moroses. Editing by Joyce Laskowski.
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