MOUNTLAKE TERRACE, Wash. -- A Washington mom and her children were denied a coronavirus stimulus check because of who she married.
Spouses of undocumented immigrants are realizing they’ve been hit twice as hard by the pandemic, even after going through the immigration process the legal way.
Now, this mom is speaking out fighting for change for her family and thousands of others facing the same fate.
“I have twins Princeton and Kingston,” said Kahnisha Hernandez.
Two beautiful boys just 5 months old, a blessing for this family who struggled with infertility and now ongoing feeding issues.
“Anything by mouth he basically gurgles and pools the milk in his throat and he regularly has a feeding tube,” said Kahnisha.
One hurdle after the next they had to adjust.
“With post-partum and the crisis hitting all at once it was emotionally exhausting,” she said.
The pandemic cost them their only income after her husband lost his restaurant job in early March.
“We hit a financial wall. I mean I had to return my vehicle I couldn’t afford the car payment,” said Kahnisha.
Everything came to a stop including her husband’s immigration case to become a U.S. citizen.
The money saved for legal proceedings went to rent. At this point, Kahnisha says she was hopeful the stimulus check would help put food on the table.
“They determined that we were not eligible and then to go in and see the 800 page Cares act and in the fine print seeing that because we filed with an ITIN, it’s not possible,” explained Kahnisha.
You see Kahnisha and her husband filed their taxes together and followed the rest of the guidelines to ensure a smooth immigration process.
“For me to be a U.S. citizen and my children to be U.S. citizens, to be denied the relief that every other American got,” said Kahnisha.
And they’re not alone in this.
“There’s about 15,000 inside of a group “Mixed Status United” who were rejected for the same reason. There are surgeons, essential workers, people putting their lives on the line every day to still be denied at the end of the day,” she said.
The way she sees it Kahnisha says mixed-status families are being punished during a pandemic, for who they love.
“I brought two beautiful boys into this world to be rejected solely because who their father is,” said Kahnisha.
Q13 News reached out to state representatives looking for some kind of resolution. As it turns out, there is one in the works.
Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal’s office says quote “They introduced the Coronavirus Immigrant Families Protection Act in April, which would allow individuals with ITINs the ability to access their stimulus checks, COVID-testing and treatment, and other relief services.”
That bill now awaits Senate approval. In the meantime, a discrimination lawsuit is in play.
“There have been federal cases filed in California, Wisconsin, Illinois and Maryland thus far seeking class-action certification and alleging that the provision of the cares act is discriminatory against American citizens. So I’m very eager to see how that litigation plays out,” said the Hernandez family attorney, Stefania Ramos.
“We’re good people, we’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing. There has to be a change somewhere,” said Kahnisha. My kids can’t have the same fight I do.”
The House passed a $3 trillion stimulus relief package called the Heroes Act, which again includes money for mixed-status families like the Hernandez’.
There’s no word yet when or if that bill passes, but the Senate is expected to review the bill in June.