By Laura Vazquez, Senior Immigration Legislative Analyst, NCLR
If you’ve been following the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) “Truth in Immigration Series,” you’ve no doubt noticed a theme—immigrants are economic contributors and our economy will benefit from immigration reform. In this series, we are lifting up some of the most recent and salient data to demonstrate these contributions in a way that is easy to understand and share because, as we know, facts often get distorted in the immigration debate (hence the name—truth in immigration).
Yesterday, Senator Hirono (D–HI) highlighted the economic contributions that immigrants make in a floor speech to demonstrate the need for her amendment to restore taxpayer fairness to aspiring citizens. She spoke about the billions in taxes that immigrants pay, and the revenue they produce to ensure the sustainability of programs such as Social Security and Medicare. Senator Hirono’s amendment recognizes that immigrants are contributors, so immigrants who are lawfully present, employed, and have satisfied their tax liability should not be prohibited from using any federally funded tax program or tax credit because of their immigration status. Not only is this fair, but it will allow immigrants and their families to be even more economically successful in the future. Senator Hirono’s amendment to restore taxpayer fairness to aspiring Americans will enable those on the roadmap to citizenship to succeed and will promote the health of our families, communities, and economy.
This is in stark contrast to the floor speech given by Senator Hatch (R–UT) Wednesday when he filed amendments that will further restrict immigrants’ access to programs that they contribute to and pay for. This is deeply troubling because aspiring Americans striving to earn their citizenship already have to work multiple jobs to pay daunting fees and penalties and jump to Olympic heights to remain in compliance with a bill that says, “Don’t get sick or fall on hard times while walking the tightrope because you are on your own.”
Currently, undocumented immigrants are not eligible for assistance programs such as nonemergency Medicaid or the cost-sharing benefits under the Affordable Care Act. The immigration bill would extend this ban to immigrants who qualify for provisional legal status. Worse, immigrants would be banned from these programs for ten years, despite paying into them with their taxes.
These are some of the most successful programs we have aimed at bringing people out of poverty and into the middle class. Denying such programs to the undocumented is not just un-American, it’s also foolhardy.