Ineligible for stimulus checks, migrant taxpayers will be ‘hit hard’ in South Texas


McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — Stimulus checks from the federal government to help families during this pandemic could be arriving in mailboxes this week, however, the millions of tax-paying migrants in the United States who do not have a Social Security number won’t be receiving relief funds.

The $2 trillion that Congress on March 27 approved under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, or CARES Act, sets aside $250 billion for direct payments to individuals and families. The Internal Revenue Service will send $1,200 payments to individuals with adjusted gross income below $75,000 and $2,400 to married couples filing taxes jointly who earn under $150,000. The government will also pay $500 per qualifying child.

U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela, D-Texas. (Courtesy Photo)

But undocumented migrants who pay taxes via an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) will not be eligible for payments, and that could be a significant amount of the population in South Texas where thousands of border residents work and pay taxes but do not have Social Security numbers.

U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela, a Democrat from Texas, whose Gulf Coast region includes the border city of Brownsville, told Border Report that “you have to have a (Social Security number) to get the money with a few limited exceptions.”

“Undocumented immigrants are not entitled to that. In fact, people with ITINs aren’t either,” he said. And if there are two spouses in a family, both must have Social Security numbers to receive money.

You have to have a (Social Security number) to get the money.”

U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela, D-Texas

Vela’s office said that “regarding mixed-status families, in which one spouse has an SSN and another the ITIN, the law is drafted such that no credit is allowed to the parents or children if either of the spouses on a joint tax return has an ITIN (unless one spouse is a member of the military).”

And only children with Social Security numbers are eligible for payments, his office said.

A Democratic-backed bill sponsored by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tried to expand this provision to help families with children who do not have Social Security numbers but that measure was struck down by Republicans in the Senate.

The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy estimates that undocumented migrants pay upwards of $11.74 billion per year in federal taxes. “Undocumented immigrants contribute significantly to state and local taxes,” the Institute wrote on its website in a March 1, 2017 report. Contributions range from just over $550,000 in Montana with an estimated undocumented population of 1,000 to more than $3.1 billion in California, where an estimated 3 million undocumented immigrants live, the report said.

The report also found that “undocumented immigrants nationwide pay on average an estimated 8 percent of their incomes in state and local taxes (this is their effective state and local tax rate). To put this in perspective, the top 1 percent of taxpayers pay an average nationwide effective tax rate of just 5.4 percent.”

A 2017 study by the University of Southern California’s Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration estimated nationwide there are 16.7 million households with at least one undocumented worker living among them. The states of California, Texas and Nevada have the highest rates. The study also found:

  • More than 8 million U.S. citizens, of which 1.2 million are naturalized citizens, have at least one unauthorized family member living with them.
  • More than 5.9 million citizen children, U.S. born and naturalized, live with at least one family member who is unauthorized.

The reports were published well before the current COVID-19 pandemic, which has put the U.S. economy in a tailspin with millions of people out of work and millions of businesses shuttered. Congress approved the relief funds as a way to help jump start the economy, but immigrant advocates say that won’t happen if everyone isn’t included.

This translates to a significant number of the South Texas residents — from Brownsville to Laredo -who likely will not receive any financial assistance through the CARES Act.

In so many households at least one member will not have a Social Securit, number, typically the mom or dad, and that means none of the children will get stimulus checks.”

Martha Sanchez of La Unión del Pueblo Entero

“You know how many mixed families we have in this area? In so many households at least one member will not have a Social Security number, typically the mom or dad, and that means none of the children will get stimulus checks. That means we are leaving out a whole bunch of people who need care and help in an area that is hard hit,” Martha Sanchez of La Unión del Pueblo Entero, a nonprofit representing migrant workers in the Rio Grande Valley, told border Report.

Sandra Sanchez can be reached at

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The mission of is to provide real-time delivery of the untold local stories about people living, working and migrating along the U.S. border with Mexico. The information is gathered by experienced and trusted Nexstar Media Group journalists hired specifically to cover the border.