In a rare bipartisan move, the Senate unanimously passed a $2 trillion Coronavirus relief bill on March 25 that includes relief payments to most Americans and many legal immigrants to help blunt the destructive and disruptive impact of COVID-19. (The House passed the bill on March 27.) However, Democratic Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) expressed her displeasure with the legislation because illegal aliens, and certain other non-citizens without Social Security Numbers (SSNs), would not qualify for relief cash payments. Pro-illegal-alien organizations also followed suit, demanding that illegals receive the monetary aid as well.
Keep in mind that many immigrants – including naturalized citizens, legal permanent residents, refugees/asylees, and even H-1B foreign guest workers – qualify as long as they are below the prescribed income threshold; the income limit applies to U.S. citizens as well.
The freshman lawmaker from New York wrote on Twitter: “To clarify, $1200 checks are ONLY going to some w/social sec numbers, NOT immigrants w/ tax IDs (ITINs). Thanks to GOP, these checks will be cut off the backs of *taxpaying immigrants,* who get nothing. Many are essential workers who pay more taxes than Amazon.”
As usual, and as is typical of the open-borders left, AOC and other pro-illegal-alien advocates conflated illegal aliens and some legal immigrants – misleadingly classifying them all as “immigrants.” This only confuses the issue.
Legal Immigrants With ITINs
The legal immigrants who won’t receive Coronavirus relief payments are a relatively limited group of foreign nationals who do not have and are not eligible to obtain a SSN (which is required to legally work in the U.S.). The Internal Revenue Service offers an exhaustive list of which foreigners should apply for Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITINs). These include: resident and nonresident aliens who are required to file a U.S. tax return; dependents or spouses of a U.S. citizen/resident alien or nonresident alien visa holder; nonresident alien claiming a tax treaty benefit; and nonresident alien students, professors, or researchers filing a U.S. tax return or claiming an exception.
Whether these subsets of ITIN-holding legal immigrants should qualify for Coronavirus relief checks is open to debate. However, given that so many immigrants – anyone who is here legally and has an SSN – are receiving payments, the legislation is hardly animated by some sort of nativist “anti-immigrant” animus.
As far as illegal aliens are concerned, the question is much more clear-cut and simple. Illegal aliens, as the name itself suggests, are in the nation unlawfully, without U.S. government authorization. They should not be in the country in the first place. Offering them relief payments would make a mockery of our immigration laws and serve to further normalize, and perhaps even incentivize, illegal immigration. That is, of course, the goal of the agenda pushed by AOC and her fellow champions of those who break our laws and violate our borders.
The argument that unauthorized foreigners should receive Coronavirus relief checks because some illegal aliens pay some taxes is flawed for several reasons. As another FAIR blog explains, there is more to being a citizen, or even legal resident – in a moral and civic sense – than simply paying taxes. And it is certainly not a reason to place illegal aliens in the same category as citizens and legal immigrants in terms of the state’s obligations towards them.
In fact, illegal aliens consume much more in various public services and expenditures than they chip in. According to FAIR’s research on the fiscal costs of illegal immigration, in 2017 illegal aliens paid approximately $15.5 billion in federal taxes, along with another $3.5 in state and local taxes. That may seem like a lot, but keep in mind that in Fiscal Year 2017, the federal government received almost $1.6 trillion in individual income taxes and nearly $1.2 trillion in payroll taxes. Moreover, as the fiscal cost study calculated, illegal immigration cost U.S. taxpayers a grand total of $116 billion annually – and that’s after illegal alien contributions were taken into account. This gap has grown to $132 billion in 2019, and may rise to nearly $200 billion a year by 2025. Finally, as the FAIR study points out, “because the vast majority of illegal aliens hold low-paying jobs, those who are subject to wage deductions actually wind up receiving a complete refund of all taxes paid, plus net payments made on the basis of tax credits.”
Ms. Ocasio-Cortez and her ilk of open-borders, anti-enforcement malcontents have found something to complain about. Rather than taking satisfaction that the government is stepping in to help the vast majority of the population – especially poorer and lower middle class Americans and many legal immigrants – they are seizing the opportunity to cater to their favorite constituency while bashing the United States, the current administration, and the GOP as anti-immigrant.