Congressional Republicans criticized policies this week that could allow millions of immigrants granted Social Security numbers through President Barack Obama’s executive actions to receive as much as four years of tax credits from the Internal Revenue Service. Critics of Obama’s program are attempting to pass a funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security, which polices immigration, ahead of a Feb. 27 shutdown deadline that would reverse the president's program, according to the Associated Press.
"I represent hard-working, law-biding Texans," said Rep. Sam Johnson, R-Texas, a senior member of the House Ways and Means Committee. "I think these amnesty rewards, and that's what they are, need to be stopped."
Obama took executive action in November to protect millions of illegal immigrants from deportation. Immigrants who have since received Social Security numbers can now apply for tax credits worth up to $24,000, depending on the size of their families.
Defenders of the program argue many illegal immigrants pay taxes and should be eligible for the same benefits as anyone else who pays taxes. Illegal immigrants paid an estimated $100 billion into Social Security in the last 10 years, chief actuary Stephen Goss estimated. Illegal immigrants who pay taxes still aren’t eligible for many federal programs, such as food stamps or federal student loans.
Workers cannot legally work in the United States without a Social Security number. With Social Security numbers received through Obama’s executive action, immigrants who once faced deportation can now be eligible to receive Social Security benefits after 10 years of paying taxes.
The immigrants are immediately eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit as long as they can provide proof of earnings and meet income requirements. Applicants can retroactively seek credits from income dating back to 2011, at a maximum rate of $6,000 per year for families with three or more children.
"The administration may have blown open the doors for fraud with amnesty bonuses of more than $24,000 to those who receive deferred action," Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., told the AP. "This program severely undermines the White House's lip-service to enforcing the law and would increase the burden on law-abiding taxpayers."
GOP lawmakers in Kansas and Ohio warned earlier this month Obama’s executive action could lead to an increase in illegally registered voters, as states lack the capacity to verify eligibility. Top Republican leaders have criticized Obama’s measures as an abuse of power.
House Republicans have thrice passed bills that would fund the DHS while repealing Obama’s executive actions, only to see all three bills fail in the Senate. The DHS will face a shutdown if legislators do not pass a funding bill by Feb. 27.