President Obama is pushing for an immigration overhaul as one of his legislative priorities in his second term in office. A bipartisan immigration reform measure is under discussion that would give those already in the U.S. illegally a path to citizenship. The new legislative initiative eases the way for illegal immigrants to apply for work permits and, with it, access to Social Security.
In addition new rules started this month that will also make it easier for illegal immigrants related to U.S. citizens to gain legal permanent residency. The change could affect as many as 1 million of the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. and is the latest in several moves by the Obama Administration using executive powers to change immigration rules without legislation passed by Congress.
The new policy affects illegal immigrants who have a spouse, parent, or child with U.S. citizenship. Prior to the new policy, if they wanted to become legal, most illegal immigrants had to leave the United States and apply for a waiver forgiving their unlawful presence. Only after getting this waiver could they apply for an immigrant visa. Without the waiver, illegal immigrants are barred from returning to this country for up to 10 years. The new procedures allow some illegals to start the application for a legal visa without leaving the U.S. Once approved, they are required to leave the U.S. briefly in order to return to their native country to pick up their visa.
TSCL is concerned because currently no law prohibits the Social Security Administration from using the earnings of jobs worked illegally for determining entitlement to benefits, if a claim is filed even years later. Once those illegals gain work authorization and a valid Social Security number, current Social Security Administration policy allows those who have evidence of earnings under invalid Social Security numbers (like W2s and tax returns) to claim and reinstate their earnings history once they obtain their own valid Social Security number. The earnings are then used to determine both entitlement to benefits and the initial retirement benefit amount.
When the Social Security Administration receives wage reports from employers with Social Security numbers and names that don’t match those on file, the reports go into an Earnings Suspense File until they can be reconciled with the rightful owner — which can occur years later when an application for benefits is received. From 2000 through 2009 the Social Security Administration on average received 9.3 million suspicious wage reports annually, representing more than $69 billion per year in wages.
The majority of seniors responding to TSCL surveys on the topic believe that noncitizens should not be allowed to receive Social Security based on illegal work. TSCL agrees and supports legislation that would ban the use of earnings while illegal from determining entitlement to benefits.
Sources: "White House Eases Path To Residency For Some Illegal Immigrants," Brian Bennett, Los Angeles Times, January 2, 2013.