Are New Immigration Rules Backdoor Amnesty?

Are New Immigration Rules Backdoor Amnesty?

Is the Obama Administration engaging in a secretive “quasi-amnesty” for untold numbers of illegal immigrants?  What does lax immigration enforcement have to do with Social Security and Medicare benefits?

The answers to these questions are important as Congress and President Obama consider deficit reduction plans that include cuts to Medicare and Social Security benefits.  TSCL believes that lax enforcement and providing “a path to citizenship” to illegal immigrants could lead to new claims for Social Security and Medicare benefits that come at the expense of seniors who earned their benefits legally.

Recently, top immigration officials directed all agents and attorneys to exercise “prosecutorial discretion” in new and pending immigration cases, potentially sparing untold numbers of illegal immigrants from deportation, according to an article appearing in the Houston Chronicle.  Immigration officials say that the new rules do not convey any legal status to illegal immigrants — they are still not authorized to live and work legally in the U.S.  The rules do mean, however, that officials are no longer actively trying to remove illegals through the immigration court system.  Nationally, the number of cases dismissed in fiscal year 2010 alone increased about 40 percent according to an analysis of immigration court data.  Thus, those who are not removed from the system likely continue to work illegally and rack up credits that Social Security uses when determining entitlement to benefits, if they at some point receive authorization to work here.

The new guidelines instruct officials to give special consideration to relatives of U.S. citizens and green card holders, military veterans, and college students brought to the U.S. as children, as well as witnesses and victims of crimes.  Because children born of illegal immigrants, in the United States are automatically U.S. citizens under the U.S. Constitution, their parents would be due special consideration under the new rules.  Thus, TSCL believes that the new policies would affect potentially millions of the estimated 11 million immigrants who are living and working in this country illegally.  The new rules may make it easier for illegal workers to avoid deportation and in time to obtain authorization to work in this country.

Under current law, if illegal immigrants at some point receive valid work authorization, they can become entitled to Social Security if other eligibility requirements are met.  When they do, under current law, Social Security uses all earnings to determine benefits.   If the immigrant who worked illegally kept copies of W2s or tax returns, or could otherwise access them, the earnings from illegal work may be used by the Social Security Administration to determine entitlement to benefits.

According to a recent national survey, more than 80 percent of TSCL supporters said they opposed allowing illegal immigrants who are given amnesty the right to collect Social Security and Medicare benefits based on their illegal work. TSCL supports legislation that would provide much stronger protection of Social Security by banning the payment of benefits based on unauthorized earnings.  TSCL supports the “No Social Security for Illegal Immigrants Act” (H.R. 787) introduced by U.S. Representative Dana Rohrabacher (CA), and S.95 introduced by Senator David Vitter (LA), that would prohibit the use of illegal earnings from being counted towards Social Security credit.

Sources:  “Immigration Cases Being Tossed By The Hundreds,” Susan Carrol, The Houston Chronicle, October 17, 2010.