By Joe Guzzardi
August 3, 2016
One year ago, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill that would eventually allow illegal immigrants to obtain professional licenses. Although federal law bans unlawful immigrants from working, much less being granted official state-issued licenses, California’s SB 1159 mandates that all 39 licensing boards overseen by the Department of Consumer Affairs consider applications regardless of immigration status.
To give SB 1159 a semblance of respectability even though none is merited, California requires that applicants present an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, or ITIN, as an alternate to a Social Security number. The difference between an ITIN, supposedly to be used exclusively for federal income tax filings, and a Social Security number is huge.
Illegal immigrants can easily secure an ITIN; Social Security numbers are only given to citizens and legal immigrants. In effect, the ITIN has become a work permit. In California that means that illegal immigrants can apply for licenses to work as professional nurses, architects, lawyers, accountants, real estate agents and dozens of other occupations that should be reserved for citizens or legal permanent residents. State officials estimate that about 3,000 illegal immigrants have applied for licenses, a total that may seem small unless you’re an unemployed American and now have to compete for a job with not only your peers, but also with illegal aliens.
Californians who got squeezed – or worse, lost their homes – in the 2008 mortgage meltdown wish they had never heard of the ITIN. Starting in 2004, the days of prudent lending practices with extensive background checks on borrowers went out the window. Commercial banks eager to expand their loan portfolios regardless of risk, began to accept ITINs in place of Social Security numbers. When marginally employed or unemployed ITIN borrowers couldn’t make payments on their subprime, short-term balloon loans, Wall Street collapsed and worldwide credit institutions teetered on the brink of financial catastrophe.
In 2011, just as the mortgage crisis stabilized, a Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration’s investigation found that 2.9 million tax returns filed with ITINs requested $6.8 billion in refunds, some of which went to illegal immigrant, non-work-authorized aliens. Many refund requests were fraudulent, most spectacularly the 23,994 refunds worth an aggregate $46 million to aliens who used the identical Atlanta, Georgia, address. Then in 2012, another TIGTA report discovered “the improper assignment of ITINs to individuals who have not substantiated their identity or foreign status.” Only one-quarter of ITINs issued since the program began in 1996 have been used to file taxes. The remaining three-quarters is ostensibly used for employment purposes.
The ITIN should be abolished. Citizens and legal immigrants have Social Security numbers and don’t need ITINs. By authorizing the ITIN, the IRS knowingly aids and abets illegal immigrants, a felony under Section 8 USC 1324(a), and punishable by a fine and/or imprisonment. Employers who hire, recruit or harbor illegal immigrants may be guilty of multiple felonies punishable by criminal fines, imprisonment, forfeiture of vehicles and seizure of real property. California has purposely approved the ITIN use as a vehicle for U.S. citizen job displacement and, since the Department of Justice is unwilling to challenge the state, to void federal immigration law.
Joe Guzzardi is a Senior Writing Fellow with Californians for Population Stabilization. Contact Joe at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @joeguzzardi19.