Shoudl Illegal immigrants without Social Security numbers get stimulus payments?

February 1, 2009
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    Illegal immigrants who lack Social Security numbers could not get tax credits under the $800 billion-plus economic stimulus package making its way through Congress.

    Two senior GOP congressional officials expressed concern Thursday that the bill could steer government checks to undocumented workers, but in fact the measure indicates that Social Security numbers are needed to claim tax credits of $500 per worker and $1,000 per couple. It also expressly disqualifies nonresident aliens.

    The Republicans spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly. But Democrats were quick to reject the notion.

    "This legislation is directed toward people who are legal in our country. It is about time the Republicans got a different piece of reading material and get off this illegal immigrant stuff," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. "This bill has nothing to do with anything illegal as far as immigration. It creates jobs for people who are lawfully in this country."

    A revolt among GOP conservatives to provisions of last year's economic stimulus bill, which sent rebate checks to most wage earners, forced Democratic congressional leaders to add stricter eligibility requirements. That legislation, enacted in February 2008, required that people have valid Social Security numbers in order to get checks.

    The current plan doesn't contain that requirement, but it imposes the same qualifications for the tax credit as are in place for the earned income tax credit, a program for low-income workers that is limited to people with Social Security numbers.

    Douglas Rivlin, a spokesman for the National Immigration Forum, called the GOP criticism "a ploy to undermine the president's stimulus package."

    "The boogieman of the week is the undocumented immigrant taxpayer and they're using it to delay or derail legislation to help the economy," Rivlin said.

    Republicans have already criticized the economic recovery package for including what they contend is wasteful spending and omitting tax cuts for wealthier people and businesses they say are needed to jump-start the anemic economy.

    Not a single Republican voted for an $819 billion version of the plan when it passed the House on Wednesday January 28, 2009.

    GOP senators voiced their concerns at a midday news conference.

    Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., criticized the tax credit which would go to millions of Americans who don't make enough money to pay federal income taxes as insufficient to stimulate the economy.

    "Calling a rebate to people who don't pay income taxes a tax cut doesn't make it a tax cut," Kyl said.

    The House-passed economic recovery measure also requires that businesses that win contracts for projects funded by the plan use a federal Internet-enabled system to ensure they do not hire illegal immigrants.

    The so-called E-Verify program, a cornerstone of the Bush administration's immigration policy, is currently voluntary. As of Jan. 24, 106,516 employers had agreed to use the database to confirm that new hires have valid Social Security numbers and are eligible for employment.

    It has sparked controversy by business groups who say it's burdensome ,and civil libertarians who say it will lead to discrimination and job losses by U.S. citizens misidentified as illegal workers.

    Last year, the Bush administration called for federal contractors to use E-Verify, a decision that business groups are challenging. The Obama administration has put the requirement for federal contractors on hold until May while it reviews the program.

    The National Council of La Raza, a Hispanic advocacy organization, said Thursday it was concerned about the E-Verify provision.

    "Given E-Verify's track record of discriminating against Latino workers immigrant and U.S. citizen alike this costly measure threatens to drive up Latino unemployment rates even further," the group said in a statement.

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