President Obama recently announced a series of Executive Actions to protect an estimated 4.9 million illegal immigrants from deportation. This month the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service is expected to start taking applications as hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants begin to apply for deportation relief, work authorization, and Social Security numbers.
Shortly after the announcement, the White House confirmed that many affected by the new actions would be eligible to receive Social Security and Medicare. "If they pay in, they can draw," said White House spokesman, Shawn Turner, according to The Washington Post.
In touting the Executive Actions, President Obama said that the actions would require undocumented immigrants eligible for relief to start paying "their fair share of taxes" in exchange for permission to work in the U.S. But TSCL believes that the Administration is overestimating what the government would receive in new tax revenues, because many illegal immigrants already pay into the system.
Data from the Social Security Administration suggest that a substantial portion of the estimated 8.1 million undocumented immigrants who illegally work in this country already have taxes withheld. According to the most recent data, the Social Security Administration received about 7 million "mismatched" wage reports in 2012 in which the name and Social Security number don’t match those on Social Security's records. This most often occurs when undocumented immigrants work under invalid Social Security numbers.
Proponents of Executive Action say it's unlikely that illegals would file a lot of claims for Social Security benefits. People need to work about ten years and meet age eligibility requirements to file a claim for retirement benefits, and most illegal immigrants are young. But the rules for disability benefits are different. Depending on age, young disabled workers could qualify for benefits with as little as 1.5 years of work history. And, under current policies, illegal immigrants who receive a work-authorized Social Security number can become entitled to benefits that could be calculated on earnings from prior work under invalid and fraudulent Social Security numbers.
TSCL believes stronger protections are needed and supports legislation that would prohibit using earnings from illegal work to determine Social Security benefits. What do you think? Take TSCL's 2015 Senior Survey now.
Source: "Illegal Immigrants Could Receive Social Security, Medicare Under Obama Action," Karen Tumulty, The Washington Post, November 25, 2014. "5 Facts About Illegal Immigration In The U.S.," Jens Manuel Krogstad, Pew Research Center, November 18, 2014