A man in Illinois is suing President Donald Trump, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin over a controversial interpretation of the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) stimulus law that bars American citizens from receiving a relief check if they are married to non-citizen immigrants.
Stylized as John Doe v. Donald Trump, et, al., the lawsuit is fashioned as a class action purporting to represent the “1.2 million Americans married to immigrants who do not hold Social Security numbers.”
The John Doe plaintiff is challenging the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) anti-immigrant carve out on various constitutional grounds–specifically alleging a violation of constitutional law surrounding the longstanding right to marry the spouse of one’s choosing.
“Defendants, acting under color of law, have violated rights secured to Plaintiff by the First, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution including the right of association, the right to due process of law, the right to equal protection under the law, and the penumbra of privacy rights created by the First, Third, Fourth, and Fifth Amendments that creates a fundamental right to marriage,” the filing notes. “Specifically, Defendants have failed, as applied to Plaintiff, to treat him as equal to his fellow United States citizens based solely on whom he chose to marry.”
The IRS has interpreted the provision in question as barring married couples without two valid Social Security numbers from receiving the $1,200 stimulus checks. The plaintiff’s spouse files their taxes using an Individual Tax Identification Number and therefore the plaintiff himself is disqualified from receiving the relief payment. The anti-immigrant exception is likely to affect hundreds of thousands of similarly situated married couples who filed their taxes together.
The filing attacks both the IRS’s interpretation as well as the overall statute–claiming that the law itself is unconstitutional and that the way the statute has been interpreted is a violation of the above-noted constitutional rights.
“The CARES Act singles out law-abiding and tax-paying U.S. Citizens by excluding them from a benefit they and their children would otherwise be entitled to with no compelling interest justifying the law and without serving any legitimate governmental interest,” the lawsuit alleges. “Sec. 6428 is not narrowly tailored to advance a compelling government interest, nor is it rationally related to any legitimate government interest.”
Under constitutional law, legislation or government action treating immigrants as a distinct class are subject to the highest form of judicial interrogation–known as strict scrutiny. The strict scrutiny standard demands that the government prove that the law was passed with a “compelling governmental interest” and that the application of the law is “narrowly tailored” to achieve that interest.
Doe alleges that neither prongs of the strict scrutiny tests have been met via the government’s efforts to bar half-immigrant households from receiving the checks.
“Defendants have no compelling interest justifying their policies of discrimination based on the marriage to a non-U.S. Citizen, and they cannot show that this suspect class is necessary to serve any legitimate governmental interest,” the filing notes. “The Defendants treat Plaintiff differently than U.S. Citizens who marry other U.S. Citizens, who are similarly situated. Sec. 6428 is not narrowly tailored to advance a compelling government interest, nor is it rationally related to any legitimate government interest.”
Originally filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois on Friday, the plaintiff filed an amended version of the complaint on Monday requesting various relief including an injunction barring the IRS from enforcing the disputed provision and a judicial declaration that the provision is unconstitutional.
Read the full amended complaint below
[image via via Sarah Silbiger_Getty Images]
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