Pressure on Congress is ramping up for immigration legislation that provides a "clear path to citizenship" for an estimated 12 million illegal immigrants. House GOP Members are reportedly working on several immigration bills, including two that would grant some form of legal status. Conservative pro-immigration reform groups, including business leaders and law enforcement, are pushing the House to take action, perhaps early this spring. The Senate passed an immigration reform bill last July.
TSCL is concerned that an immigration amnesty would create new liabilities for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, that would be based on illegal work. Under current law, the Social Security benefits of immigrants who worked illegally, and who later gain work authorization, are calculated at least in part, on earnings from jobs worked under fraudulent numbers prior to gaining legal status.
TSCL supports a special provision of the Senate bill introduced by Senators Orrin Hatch (UT) and Marco Rubio (FL). The provision would ban earnings from jobs worked illegally from being used to determine entitlement to Social Security benefits and for calculating the amount of initial benefits – legislation that TSCL and TSCL's grassroots members have long supported. But the Senate bill does not close a related loophole in current law that allows older immigrants who received "non-work" Social Security numbers issued prior to 2004 to claim Social Security benefits without having ever received work authorization.
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that there would be costs both to Social Security and Medicare, primarily for disability benefits starting as early as 2017, assuming enactment into law this year. The CBO said, however, that the new TSCL-supported amendment would save the programs about $6 billion over the first 20 years, with the savings growing greater in the future.
TSCL continues to meet with Members of Congress this year asking them to support provisions that would bar payment of Social Security benefits based on illegal work. Stay up-to-date, sign up for TSCL's e-alerts and e-newsletters.
Sources: "8 Lawmakers Arrested At Immigration Rally," Seung Min Kim, Politico, October 8, 2013. "House Republicans Still Drafting Several More Immigration Bills," David Harrison, CQ Roll Call, October 23, 2013.