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Case Name Amador v. Mnuchin PB-MD-0009
Docket / Court 1:20-cv-01102 ( D. Md. )
State/Territory Maryland
Case Type(s) Immigration and/or the Border
Public Benefits / Government Services
Special Collection COVID-19 (novel coronavirus)
Attorney Organization MALDEF
Case Summary
COVID-19 Summary: This action was filed on April 28, 2020 by sixteen individuals with undocumented spouses alleging violations of the First and Fifth Amendment within the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Plaintiffs sought an injunction that would allow them to receive ... read more >
COVID-19 Summary: This action was filed on April 28, 2020 by sixteen individuals with undocumented spouses alleging violations of the First and Fifth Amendment within the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Plaintiffs sought an injunction that would allow them to receive recovery payments and a declaration that the eligibility qualifications in the act were unconstitutional. On May 29, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss which was denied on August 5. No outcome yet.


This case was brought to determine who was eligible to receive emergency financial assistance under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) in the form of refundable tax credits of $1,200 or $2,400 in the case of individuals filing a joint return. The CARES Act, which was passed on March 27, 2020, was designed to alleviate financial hardships caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The credits were only open to “eligible individual[s],” which did not include “nonresident alien[s].” Eligibility status was determined by the presence of a social security number (SSN) on a recent tax return. In the case of a joint tax return, eligibility was limited to individuals whose spouse also had an SSN. Therefore, the tax credits were not available to otherwise eligible individuals filing a joint tax return if their spouse was undocumented.

The plaintiffs in this case were sixteen individuals with undocumented spouses who were ineligible to receive the CARES Act tax credits. They filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland on April 28, 2020 against the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, arguing that the CARES Act was in violation of the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause and the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of speech and association. The plaintiffs sought a declaratory judgment that the CARES Act was unconstitutional and unenforceable, as well as an injunction to enjoin defendants from enforcing the CARES Act’s SSN requirement for payments. The plaintiffs also sought a class certification, including all persons who were eligible for tax credits except for the fact that their spouses lacked social security number. The case was assigned to Judge Ellen L. Hollander.

The plaintiffs filed an amended complaint on May 19.

On May 29, 2020, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that sovereign immunity, lack of standing, and failure to state a claim justified dismissal. The Federation for American Immigration Reform filed an amicus brief in support. The plaintiffs responded to the defendant's arguments on June 5.

On August 5, 2020, Judge Hollander denied the defendants' motion to dismiss. 2020 WL 4547950.The judge determined that sovereign immunity in the case was waived by defendants through § 702 of the Administrative Procedure Act, which allowed suits against the United States for relief other than money damages. The government had argued that the defendants did not suffer any injuries and therefore did not have standing to sue, the judge determined that deprivation of a CARES Act payment did qualify as an economic injury and discriminatory treatment, both of which were considered sufficient to find that the plaintiffs had standing.

In addition to the issue of standing, the defendants also contended that the plaintiffs failed to state a claim under the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment. The plaintiffs alleged that the CARES Act burdened their fundamental right of marriage and singled them out for disfavored treatment on the basis of marriage. The judge held that plaintiffs adequately alleged that the CARES Act imposed a discriminatory burden on the fundamental right of marriage and that the government lacked a rational basis for discriminating against married taxpayers on the basis of their spouse's immigration status. For these reasons, the judge denied the defendants' motion to dismiss the plaintiffs' cause of action under the Fifth Amendment.

The defendants also argued for dismissal for failure to state a claim under the First and Fifth Amendments. The plaintiffs argued that they were deprived of recovery payments based on their association with their spouses. The court cited precedent from the Supreme Court holding that marriage is a protected form of free association under the First Amendment and therefore denied the defendants' motion to dismiss the First Amendment cause of action.

The case is ongoing.

Nicholas Gillan - 10/08/2020


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Due Process: Substantive Due Process
Equal Protection
Freedom of speech/association
Defendant-type
Jurisdiction-wide
Discrimination-basis
Immigration status
General
Public assistance grants
Immigration/Border
Constitutional rights
Family
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201
Ex parte Young (federal or state officials)
Defendant(s) U.S. Department of the Treasury
U.S. Internal Revenue Service
Plaintiff Description Sixteen United States citizens whose spouses lack legal status. The proposed class is: "All persons who are otherwise qualified for and would have received recovery payments but for the fact that they are excluded by 26 U.S.C. § 6428 (g)(1)(B) because their spouses lack social security numbers."
Indexed Lawyer Organizations MALDEF
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Pending
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party None Yet / None
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief None yet
None
Source of Relief None yet
None
Filed 04/28/2020
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
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  See this case at CourtListener.com (May provide additional documents and, for active cases, real-time alerts)
Court Docket(s)
D. Md.
11/24/2020
1:20-cv-01102-ELH
PB-MD-0009-9000.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
D. Md.
04/28/2020
Class Action Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief [ECF# 1]
PB-MD-0009-0001.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
D. Md.
05/19/2020
First Amended Class Action Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief [ECF# 31]
PB-MD-0009-0002.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
D. Md.
06/05/2020
[Plaintiffs' Response re 32] [ECF# 36]
PB-MD-0009-0004.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
D. Md.
08/05/2020
Memorandum Opinion [ECF# 43] (2020 WL 4547950)
PB-MD-0009-0003.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Hollander, Ellen Lipton (D. Md.) show/hide docs
PB-MD-0009-0003 | PB-MD-0009-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Helzer, Belinda Escobosa (California) show/hide docs
PB-MD-0009-0001 | PB-MD-0009-0002 | PB-MD-0009-0004 | PB-MD-0009-9000
Holguin-Flores, Andres (California) show/hide docs
PB-MD-0009-0001 | PB-MD-0009-0002 | PB-MD-0009-0004 | PB-MD-0009-9000
Menendez, Fatima (Texas) show/hide docs
PB-MD-0009-0001 | PB-MD-0009-0002 | PB-MD-0009-0004 | PB-MD-0009-9000
Newman, Robert P. (Maryland) show/hide docs
PB-MD-0009-0001 | PB-MD-0009-0002 | PB-MD-0009-0004 | PB-MD-0009-9000
Perales, Nina (Texas) show/hide docs
PB-MD-0009-0001 | PB-MD-0009-0002 | PB-MD-0009-0004 | PB-MD-0009-9000
Saenz, Thomas A. (California) show/hide docs
PB-MD-0009-0001 | PB-MD-0009-0002 | PB-MD-0009-0004
Senteno, Andrea E. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PB-MD-0009-0001 | PB-MD-0009-0002 | PB-MD-0009-0004 | PB-MD-0009-9000
Serna, Samantha T (Texas) show/hide docs
PB-MD-0009-0001 | PB-MD-0009-0002 | PB-MD-0009-0004 | PB-MD-0009-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Konig, Jordan Andrew (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PB-MD-0009-9000
Kumar, Nishant (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PB-MD-0009-9000 | PB-MD-0009-9000
Williamson, Christopher James (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PB-MD-0009-9000
Other Lawyers Hethmon, Michael M. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PB-MD-0009-9000

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