An immigration program launched by the Obama Administration two years ago has issued valid, work-authorized Social Security numbers to about 600,000 applicants who attest to be in the country illegally. The program, known as "Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals," is one of a series of administrative amnesty initiatives by President Obama to stop deportations of immigrants and let undocumented immigrants who meet the qualifications work in this country despite illegal status. Now immigration activists are pressuring President Obama and Members of Congress to expand the Deferred Action program, or pass immigration reform.
Deferred Action allows immigrants under the age of 33, who entered the country illegally as children, to request consideration of deferred action on deportation. In addition, the program provides temporary work authorization, and valid Social Security numbers. The work permits are good for two years and the Obama Administration recently announced they are taking applications for renewal.
But changes to illegal immigration enforcement can have long-term financial implications for federal benefit programs, including Social Security and Medicare. With work-authorization and valid Social Security numbers, even noncitizens can potentially become entitled to Social Security benefits with enough years of earnings or a change of legal status. At issue is whether work prior to obtaining legal status and valid Social Security numbers would count toward entitlement to Social Security and Medicare benefits — under current law it does.
Both Social Security and Medicare have come under intense scrutiny for benefit cuts in recent years of deficit reduction negotiations. Immigration proponents say that immigration reform would boost the payroll taxes flowing to both programs and prolong program solvency. Critics, including TSCL, say that giving hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants new access to Social Security would boost long-term costs far more than the 2-year estimated gain in solvency that the Social Security program would receive. Under current law the government continues to calculate entitlement and the amount of the initial benefit based on all earnings, even for jobs worked under invalid or even fraudulent Social Security numbers prior to gaining legal work authorization.
In coming years, growing program cost pressures could mean that some illegals may benefit from the use of invalid and fraudulent Social Security numbers at the expense of others who worked and paid into the system legally. TSCL's new 2014 Senior Survey found that 87 percent of respondents favor prohibiting payment of Social Security benefits calculated on earnings from unauthorized work by illegal immigrants. TSCL supports legislation that would prohibit earnings under invalid and fraudulent Social Security numbers from use in determining entitlement to Social Security benefits.
Let your Representative know what you think! Ask him or her to co-sponsor, H.R. 2745, the No Social Security for Illegal Immigrants Act. Send an email here.
Sources: "Immigration Activists Urge Obama To Act Boldly", Carolyn Kaster, Associated Press, April 15, 2014. Letter to Senator Marco Rubio from Stephen C. Goss, Chief Actuary, Social Security Administration, June 28, 2013.