Social Security for Illegal Aliens?
The Senate yesterday narrowly defeated an amendment by John Ensign that would have denied Social Security benefits to illegal aliens.
The Senate voted yesterday to allow illegal aliens to collect Social Security benefits based on past illegal employment — even if the job was obtained through forged or stolen documents. “There was a felony they were committing, and now they can’t be prosecuted. That sounds like amnesty to me,” said Sen. John Ensign, the Nevada Republican who offered the amendment yesterday to strip out those provisions of the immigration reform bill. “It just boggles the mind how people could be against this amendment.”
The Ensign amendment was defeated on a 50-49 vote. “We all know that millions of undocumented immigrants pay Social Security and Medicare taxes for years and sometimes decades while they work to contribute to our economy,” said Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican. “The Ensign amendment would undermine the work of these people by preventing lawfully present immigrant workers from claiming Social Security benefits that they earned before they were authorized to work in our community,” he said. “If this amendment were enacted, the nest egg that these immigrants have worked hard for would be taken from them and their families.”
“It makes no sense to reward millions of illegal immigrants for criminal behavior while our Social Security system is already in crisis,” said Sen. Jim DeMint, South Carolina Republican. “Why in the world would we endorse this criminal activity with federal benefits? The Senate missed a big opportunity to improve this bill, and I doubt American seniors will be pleased with the result.”
Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat, said it would be unfair to deny illegals the benefits. “We should not steal their funds or empty their Social Security accounts,” he said. “That is not fair. It does not reward their hard work or their financial contributions. It violates the trust that underlies the Social Security Trust Fund.”
Ensign and DeMint are being dishonest in saying that illegal aliens are criminals, let alone felons. While they are in violation of immigration law, they are not in violation of current criminal law–let alone convicted of such. There has been an attempt in recent weeks to change that, although without success. Even if the law were changed, it would not apply ex post facto.
Further, while my initial reaction in getting an email (from DeMint’s office) with the subject: “Illegals granted Social Security!” was negative, it only takes a moment’s reflection to see that McCain and Leahy are right. Social Security is, theoretically if not in reality, a pay-as-you-go system. For those people who pay into the system to be denied benefits would be unconscionable.
Indeed, while the law was recently amended to deny Social Security benefits to fugitives and inmates, my understanding is that those no longer incarcerated, even convicted felons, are entitled to their benefits. It would be quite strange to treat people whose only “crime” was sneaking across our border to work were treated more harshly than pedophiles and murderers.
Still, this is a great political issue:
Within hours, the vote had become an issue in this fall’s elections, raised by a Republican challenger to Sen. Debbie Stabenow, Michigan Democrat. “Instead of protecting the retirement security of Americans who are earning an honest living and abiding by the laws of our country, Debbie Stabenow sided with people who are here illegally and abuse our Social Security system,” Oakland County, Mich., Sheriff Michael Bouchard said in a press release. “Allowing illegal immigrants to use their illegal work history as credit towards receiving Social Security benefits shows that Debbie Stabenow has forgotten who she is supposed to be working for in the U.S. Senate.”