O-Pinion

Is the president giving our Tax Day money to illegal immigrants?

A Tax Day question: Is President Obama taking our tax money and using it to write tax credit checks to illegal immigrants?

That’s what U.S. Rep. Richard Hudson says. In an op-ed on the tax code in today’s O, the 8th District rep notes that under Obama’s 2014 executive action on undocumented workers, those immigrants “would be eligible to get Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) for years they worked illegally in the United States.”

Says Hudson: “Taking billions of dollars from law-abiding taxpayers to write checks to unlawful immigrants is an absolute disservice to our working families and hardworking immigrants who came here through the lawful process.”

Is he right about immigrants and the EITC? Yes, but not really.

A quick refresher: The president’s 2014 executive action allows undocumented immigrants to stay in the U.S. if they’ve lived in the country for at least five years and have children who are citizens or legal permanent residents.

That action is on hold thanks to a federal judge’s ruling, but if it’s eventually allowed to proceed, the immigrants in question would have to register with the government and pass background checks. They also would be given a Social Security number for work.

That’s where Hudson’s EITC protest comes in. With their Social Security numbers, immigrants could file amended tax returns claiming the tax credit for work they’ve done over the past three years.

But will they? Probably not. To do so would often mean reconstructing earnings that were paid under the table. That’s a cumbersome process at best, and given that undocumented workers probably didn’t pay taxes on those earnings, they’d owe significant back taxes and could easily end up costing themselves money.

So Hudson’s “billions of dollars from law-abiding taxpayers” for retroactive EITC benefits? That’s far-fetched.

If Hudson believes that no government benefits should go to undocumented immigrants – even those shielded from deportation by the president – that’s a separate debate. (Some Republicans are considering legislation that would yank future EITC benefits from the immigrants who benefit from Obama’s order.)

Of course, there also are those – including this editorial board – who feel uncomfortable about the president crafting significant domestic policy through executive action instead of through Congress. But we also blame the conservatives in Congress who’ve sabotaged immigration reform that most Americans have wanted.

House Republicans like Hudson could have made the president’s executive actions moot by voting late last year on a bill passed by the Senate that gave them most of what they want on immigration. It’s easier politically, however, to make iffy Tax Day claims about amnesty and our tax dollars.

Peter St. Onge

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