The Immigration Reform Provision That Would Provide Billions in Social Security Protection

The Immigration Reform Provision That Would Provide Billions in Social Security Protection

Alexandria, VA (August 5, 2013) Should undocumented immigrants who use invalid Social Security numbers to work be entitled to Social Security and Medicare benefits based on earnings under those numbers?  They potentially could be under current U.S. law.

Millions of unauthorized workers use invalid, stolen, or fraudulent Social Security numbers to get jobs in the United States.  If their status later changes, and they receive “green cards” or work authorization, as would occur under major immigration reform, they would be able to file claims for benefits.  Under current law the Social Security Administration uses all earnings to determine entitlement to benefits – including earnings from jobs worked illegally under fraudulent or invalid Social Security numbers.

A recent poll -- conducted by The Senior Citizens League (TSCL), one of the nation’s largest nonpartisan seniors groups – found that 88 percent of seniors say they strongly favor prohibiting the payment of Social Security benefits based on unauthorized work.  “The current policy doesn’t make sense to senior voters,” states TSCL Chairman, Larry Hyland.  “It rewards people for document fraud,” Hyland says.  “Millions of unauthorized immigrants whose status changes would receive benefits based on unauthorized work, potentially at the expense of others who spent their entire career working under valid Social Security numbers,” he says. “President Obama and Congress are considering changes that would cut the growth in cost-of-living adjustments received by more than 62.6 million beneficiaries,” he points out.

A provision introduced by Senators Orrin Hatch (UT) and Marco Rubio (FL) in the Senate’s recently passed immigration reform bill (S. 744) would prevent payment of benefits based on prior illegal work.   The provision would ban earnings from jobs worked without legal authorization 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.  The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that provision would save Social Security and Medicare about $6 billion over the first 20 years, with the savings growing greater in the future.[1]  Under the Senate bill, unauthorized workers would have to wait 13 years before they could access federal benefits.

The fate of the provision to prevent payment of benefits based on illegal work remains in limbo as the House considers immigration legislation.  Representative Dana Rohrabacher (CA-46) has introduced similar legislation -- the “No Social Security For Illegal Immigrants Act” (H.R. 2745).  TSCL encourages all readers concerned about the future of their Social Security and Medicare benefits to contact your Representative in the U.S. House and ask for support of H.R. 2745.  “To strengthen Social Security and Medicare, work under invalid and fraudulent Social Security numbers should be invalid for entitlement to benefits,” says Hyland.  To learn more, visit


                With about 1 million supporters, The Senior Citizens League is one of the nation's largest nonpartisan seniors groups. Located just outside Washington, D.C., its mission is to promote and assist members and supporters, to educate and alert senior citizens about their rights and freedoms as U.S. Citizens, and to protect and defend the benefits senior citizens have earned and paid for. The Senior Citizens League is a proud affiliate of TREA The Enlisted Association. Please visit or call 1-800-333-8725 for more information.

[1] Congressional Budget Office, Cost Estimate, S.744, June 18, 2013 and July 3, 2013.  The Economic Impact of S. 744, Congressional Budget Office, June 2013.