This Week in Immigration Reform — Week Ending August 28

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Week Ended August 28

This week in immigration reform: Congressman Steny Hoyer (D-MD) visits NCLR Affiliate to discuss immigration; NCLR President and CEO laments “Trumpification” of Republican Party; Citizens for Tax Justice corrects inaccuracies in Trump immigration, tax plans; and Gallup poll finds ties between immigrant status, discrimination. 

NCLR kept the community informed with staff quoted in Buzzfeed.

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) talks immigration with Friendly House: During his visit to Phoenix, Arizona this week, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) spoke with leaders from Friendly House, an NCLR Affiliate focused on the betterment of immigrants in the Phoenix area. “Immigration is a bedrock service of the organization and the reason for Friendly House’s start 95 years ago. As the state’s oldest immigration service provider we appreciate the opportunity to share the valuable role we play in integrating new citizens into America and Arizona’s communities,” said Leticia de la Vara, COO of Friendly House. Talks focused on immigration’s impact on direct service providers, as well as the challenges the immigrant community faces in acclimating to a new country. Congressman Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) and State Representative Reginald Bolding were also in attendance.

NCLR President calls past week’s immigration talk “turning point” in election: In a post on NCLR’s blog, NCLR President and CEO Janet Murguía wrote about Donald Trump’s effect on the presidential race, saying his immigration plan, “put[s] his bigotry and hateful rhetoric into policy.” Unfortunately, the effect of Trump’s rhetoric extends beyond politics, as evidenced by the beating of a homeless Latino man in Boston whose attackers were motivated by Trump’s policy stance on undocumented immigrants. “Much of the responsibility for this attack lies at the feet of not only Trump, but of a Republican Party whose leadership has so far refused to publicly and unequivocally denounce Trump and his extreme rhetoric,” says Murguía. “When the election rolls around next November, there is no question in my mind that we will look back at this week as a turning point in the election. It will be known as the week when Trump’s dominance of both the campaign and the direction of the Republican Party on the immigration issue turned a dark and dangerous turn. It will be remembered as the week that Republicans not only started to lose the Latino vote, but also the election.”

Trump’s immigration, tax flaws highlighted by Citizens for Tax Justice: Donald Trump’s framework for immigration reform is full of misleading statements and inaccuracies, writes the Citizens for Tax Justice (CTJ). The article states, “Trump claims that ‘illegal immigrants’ received $4.2 billion in ‘free’ tax credits in 2011 and proposes to pay for part of his immigration proposal by accepting the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA)’s ‘recommendation’ to eliminate tax credit payments to these individuals,” but upon digging into the TIGTA report tells a different story. First, CTJ notes, the word “free” is misleading because the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy estimated that unauthorized immigrants paid $11.8 billion in state and local taxes in 2012. The $4.2 billion figure is also called into question, as is the “recommendation” by TIGTA to eliminate tax credit payments to “illegal immigrants.”

Poll finds immigration status tied to discrimination among Hispanics: Gallup released a new poll this week finding that about 25 percent of all U.S. Hispanics say they have been on the receiving end of discrimination because of their ethnicity at least once in the past month. These instances occurred in a variety of settings, including their place of work, in dealings with police, while getting healthcare, at an entertainment venue, or while shopping. Additionally, the poll finds that for Hispanics born outside the U.S., those feelings of discrimination jump by as little as 50 percent and as much as 500 percent. For treatment in the workplace, for example, 5 percent of Hispanics born in the U.S. said they had faced discrimination in the past month compared to 18 percent of Hispanics born outside the U.S. One factor for this difference that Gallup cites is language: “The poll included interviews with Hispanics in both English and Spanish, with those born outside the U.S. much more likely to be interviewed in Spanish than native-born Hispanics. In turn, the analysis shows that reports of discrimination are much higher among foreign-born Hispanics who are interviewed in Spanish than those interviewed in English. This indicates that language, in addition to ethnicity, may be a key factor in Hispanics’ reports of discrimination and in any actual discrimination that occurs.” This data is taken from Gallup’s June 15-July 10 Minority Rights and Relations poll, which included a sample of 508 Hispanic adults.

What Trump Gets All Wrong About Immigration and Taxes

(Cross-posted from the Citizens for Tax Justice Blog)

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Photo: Gage Skidmore.

Donald Trump’s recently released framework for immigration reform includes misleading statements about “illegal immigrants” claiming refundable tax credits. Trump claims that “illegal immigrants” received $4.2 billion in “free” tax credits in 2011 and proposes to pay for part of his immigration proposal by accepting the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA)’s “recommendation” to eliminate tax credit payments to these individuals. It’s hard to know where to start in deconstructing the inaccuracies in Trump’s statement.

First, the use of the word “free” is highly misleading, as undocumented immigrants do pay a significant amount in local, state, and federal taxes.  An analysis by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) estimated that in 2012, undocumented immigrants paid $11.8 billion in state and local taxes (including about $7 billion in sales and excise taxes, $3.6 billion in property taxes, and $1.1 billion in income taxes). On top of this, the Social Security Administration’s Office of the Chief Actuary estimated that in 2010, unauthorized workers (who may be undocumented or in the country legally but without permission to work) paid $12 billion in Social Security payroll taxes net of benefits received. Since most unauthorized workers are not eligible for Social Security benefits, this group only received approximately $1 billion in benefits for the $13 billion paid in.

Second, the $4.2 billion figure that Trump references is from a 2011 TIGTA report that actually states that families with an unauthorized worker received $4.2 billion in 2009 (not 2011) through the refundable portion of the Child Tax Credit (known as the Additional Child Tax Credit). While this may sound the same on the surface, there are a few things that should be noted. As the report explains, these credits were claimed by taxpayers using an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN), which the IRS issues to individuals not eligible for a Social Security Number. ITINs are issued without regard to immigration status to people not authorized to work in the United States, so this group includes not just undocumented immigrants but also individuals who have immigrated legally but aren’t legally able to work.

Labor-Day-Banner-Photo-4Taxpayers using an ITIN are prohibited from receiving the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) but are allowed to claim the Child Tax Credit (CTC). Worth up to $1,000 per qualifying child, the CTC is intended to offset the costs of raising children. Families who owe less in taxes than their eligible Child Tax Credit amount can receive the difference through the Additional Child Tax Credit, which is paid out with their tax refund. Since the CTC is intended primarily to benefit children, it makes sense that it is the children’s immigration status, not the parents’, that qualifies a family to receive the credit, and a qualifying child can be a citizen, a U.S. national, or a resident alien. And although some portion of the $4.2 billion in Additional Child Tax Credits could be going to families with undocumented parents, nearly 80 percent of the children of undocumented immigrants are U.S. citizens.

It is also worth noting that the refundable tax credits like the EITC and CTC have immense benefits for the children in the families that receive them. There is a growing body of research showing that these credits improve educational and health outcomes for children and result in them working hard and having higher earnings as adults.

Third, while Trump says that his plan would “accept the recommendation” of TIGTA to eliminate tax credit payments to illegal immigrants, the 2012 TIGTA report that he references makes no such recommendation. In actuality, the report recommends that the IRS implement procedures to reduce the number of fraudulent ITIN applications that it approves. TIGTA’s main concern here is that people are using fraudulent documents to obtain an ITIN and using it to file fraudulent tax returns (e.g. claiming tax refunds for non-existent persons), not the use of ITINs by undocumented immigrants.

GuardRailWorkers_12_2_2014Finally, if the concern is the $4.2 billion revenue loss, Trump should look to comprehensive immigration reform that allows a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, which would actually increase revenues at the federal, state, and local levels. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that the 2013 Senate comprehensive immigration reform bill would have decreased the deficit by $197 billion over ten years, as newly legal immigrants would pay $459 billion in additional taxes, while the increased government expenditures for benefits would only increase by $262 billion. Additionally, ITEP estimated that granting citizenship to all undocumented immigrants would raise more than $2.2 billion annually in state and local revenues. These revenue increases would occur because more immigrants would then be paying taxes on their income and because citizenship is likely to boost wages and therefore increase income, sales and property taxes. Trump might want to consider these benefits instead of spending all his time planning for that wall.

For more on Trump’s tax proposals, click here.