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Far From Harming Social Safety Net, Undocumented Immigrants Prop It Up

Sasha Kimel/Flickr

Undocumented Immigrants pay billions into social security and will receive nothing from it.

A popular talking point among Republicans is that undocumented immigrants are a drain on the U.S. social safety net, often without providing a solid basis for the claim. But as it turns out, when it comes to social security, undocumented immigrants actually improve the safety net: they pay in billions that they will never see in benefits.

Republicans have tried to clamp down on the amount that illegal immigrants who paid into the system will be able to withdraw. The Social Security Administration estimates that in 2010 illegal immigrants paid a net contribution of $12 billion, either by working under a fraudulent Social Security number or by using a legitimate Social Security number after overstaying a visa or otherwise losing permission to work.

Previously, if these immigrants had documented and were able to prove their earnings history, after attaining legal status they could get credit for their contributions. But that changed in 2013:

[T]he Corker-Hoeven amendment to the Senate bill, which paved the way for passage, would bar them from getting credit for the previous decade’s worth of payments even if they obtain legal status.

“To some extent, it’s a taking by the federal government,” said Marielena Hincapié, the executive director of the National Immigration Law Center. “The people who are going to be most severely impacted by this are going to be low-income immigrants.”

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