Legislative Update: September 2013

Legislative Update: September 2013

88% Of TSCL Members Oppose Payment Of Social Security Based On Illegal Work

By Jessie Gibbons, Legislative Assistant

Millions of unauthorized workers use invalid, stolen, or fraudulent Social Security numbers in order to get jobs in the United States. Years later, if they receive "green cards" or work authorization, they may file a claim for Social Security benefits. Under current law, the Social Security Administration uses all earnings to determine entitlement to benefits – even earnings posted for jobs worked illegally. In a recent poll, The Senior Citizens League (TSCL) found that a staggering proportion of members and supporters – 88 percent – strongly favor prohibiting the payment of Social Security benefits based on unauthorized work. This summer, while Congress was debating comprehensive immigration reform, TSCL worked tirelessly to have this concern addressed.

In May, one month after the Senate's "Gang of Eight" officially released its plan to overhaul the immigration system, our all-volunteer Board of Trustees and Legislative Team – which includes former Congressman David Funderburk and Mrs. Betty Funderburk – met with one of the bill's principle drafters: Senator Marco Rubio (FL). We urged him to include a provision in the bill that would prevent immigrants from collecting Social Security benefits based on a history of illegal work – a measure that we believe would reduce the financial burden on the Trust Fund and help uphold the integrity of the program.

Senator Rubio expressed support for such a provision, and four weeks later, he and Senator Orrin Hatch (UT) unveiled an amendment to the bill that would effectively address the concern of 88 percent of TSCL’s members and supporters. After introducing the amendment, Senator Rubio stated, "The purpose of this immigration bill cannot and should not be to provide as many immigrants as possible with as many government benefits as possible." The measure, he said, would "ensure that this immigration bill reflects the core principle that those who have violated our laws will not receive federal benefits." Similarly, Senator Hatch stated, "What we are talking about is a basic fairness that those wanting to become American citizens have to play by the rules, just as Americans do today."

The measure put forth by Senators Rubio and Hatch was later included in a broader amendment that was adopted in order to better secure the nation's borders. Senators John Hoeven (ND) and Bob Corker (TN) introduced the 119-page "border surge" amendment, which served as a bipartisan compromise and ultimately helped secure the votes needed for the "Gang of Eight's" comprehensive plan to pass in the Senate.

Due to the strong show of support for restricting benefits based on illegal work, we put the issue at the top of our legislative agenda, and we have worked – and will continue to work – tirelessly to protect the integrity of the Social Security program. TSCL's involvement and grassroots petitions have had a strong effect on the immigration reform debate thus far. We look forward to continuing our efforts to protect and preserve the program through the remainder of the 113th Congress.