The Rebound: Indiana is WRTV’s effort to help you and your family through the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
PLYMOUTH, IN — More than 100,000 mixed-status families in Indiana will now be eligible for stimulus checks under a new relief package passed by Congress and signed into law by President Trump this month.
Mixed-status immigrant households with undocumented family members did not qualify for the first round of stimulus payments under the CARES Act, which was enacted in March.
WRTV Investigates spoke with half a dozen Indiana women, all U.S. citizens, who say they were punished because of who they married.
Victoria Hernandez lives in Plymouth, Indiana, with her husband Jose and their two children.
Their entire family did not receive a stimulus check earlier this year.
"I kind of got this gut-wrenching feeling like I don't think we are going to get it,” said Hernandez.
The Hernandez family is a mixed-status household because Victoria is a U.S. citizen and Jose is an undocumented immigrant from Mexico, living in the U.S. since he was six years old.
The federal government excluded mixed-status families, including more than 100,000 in Indiana, from the first round of stimulus checks—meaning American citizens did not get the money because of their spouse’s immigration status.
The Migration Policy Institute estimates nationwide 14.4 million people in mixed-status families were excluded from stimulus payments including 9.3 million undocumented immigrants, 3.7 million children who are citizens or legal immigrants, and 1.4 million spouses who are U.S. citizens or legal immigrants.
"We should never have been excluded in the first place,” said Victoria Hernandez. “I can't imagine someone saying my kids don't deserve it just because their dad is illegal."
Back in May, WRTV Investigates introduced you to other Central Indiana women—American citizens who didn’t get stimulus checks because of their partner’s undocumented status.
“I just feel we are very discriminated against because of who we decided to marry and have children with,” Selina Borowicz, a McCordsville mother, said.
Mixed status families fought back, and contacted their representatives in Washington D.C. and some filed lawsuits against the federal government.
The criticism made an impact, and the newly passed relief package now includes stimulus checks for mixed-status households like the Hernandez family of Plymouth, Indiana.
"It's kind of surreal,” said Hernandez. “I'll believe it when I see it. I will be thankful when it is deposited into our account."
Undocumented immigrants are still not eligible for stimulus payments under the coronavirus relief package passed this month.
But this time around, U.S. citizens and Green Card holders will be eligible to receive at least $600 as an additional $600 per dependent child, even if they filed their 2019 taxes with an undocumented immigrant.
"I think everyone will be thankful that they're listening, and I appreciate that they've included families like mine,” said Hernandez.
U.S. Congressman Andre Carson, D-Indiana, told WRTV that mixed-status families should also retroactively receive the $1,200 per household and $500 per child payments from the CARES Act as well as the $600 checks as part of the new relief package.
“Many U.S. Citizens, Hoosiers included, missed out on vital relief due to the exclusion of mixed-status families in previous relief bills, and I'm pleased we are making progress in righting this wrong,” said Congressman Carson in a statement to WRTV. “We shouldn't be playing politics with people's lives and livelihoods. All Americans have been hit hard by COVID-19, regardless of their citizenship status, and they all need support.”
Indianapolis immigration attorney Katie Rosenberger says our entire economy benefits from mixed-status families receiving stimulus checks.
“Without them our food system, our construction and housing would collapse,” said Rosenberger. “The benefits they are providing is immeasurable, so them having access to their citizen spouse and citizen children having some kind of relief I think is tremendous. This could be a huge help to catch up on rent, to put food on the table, to pay for childcare "
Rosenberger says the vast majority of undocumented immigrants in Indiana are working, paying taxes, and working toward a Green Card or becoming a U.S. citizen.
"It takes a year and a half, sometimes two years or longer, it's costly," said Rosenberger.
Jose Hernandez works in construction, and he is working toward getting his Green Card.
The Hernandez family plans to use the stimulus money to put in their savings for any unexpected bills.
They’re grateful to Congress for including mixed-status families this time around.
"I hope if it ever goes further, I hope they keep us in the loop because we are just as deserving as the person next to us," said Hernandez.
Mixed-status families may not receive the full amount if the couple earns more than $150,000.
Also, the House voted this week to increase stimulus payments to $2,000 but that is not a done deal.