Legalized Immigrants Unlikely to Pay Back Taxes

Published on February 5th, 2014

By Joe Guzzardi
February 05, 2014

Even though immigration reform could have and should have been dead months ago, House Speaker John Boehner has single-handedly resurrected it from the grave. Shortly after Congress reconvened in January, Boehner announced his list of “immigration principles” that revitalized the year-long amnesty effort.

Boehner’s has had plenty of help promoting reform from his pro-amnesty GOP leadership partners-in-crime Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Budget Chairman Paul Ryan Paul Ryan.  As a measure of Boehner’s commitment to amnesty, consider the depth of deceit to which he’s willing to descend.  

On his official House website earlier this week, Boehner posted on his “Draft Standards for Step-by-Step Immigration Reform.” The document contained all the familiar talking points that convince no one. Among them are promises to “secure our borders,” to administer “rigorous background checks,” and to ensure that legalized illegal immigrants would “be able to support themselves and their families without access to public benefits.”

As outrageous as the untruths about enforcement and denying welfare are, Boehner’s “standards” included more egregious lies: that aliens would “pay significant fines,” “develop proficiency in English and American civics,” and “pay back taxes.” 

Good luck! Back taxes will never be paid. First, according to language buried deep within the Senate bill, taxes refer to those that the Internal Revenue Service has already assessed and not those that might be possibly be owed. Recreating an income statement for a large population of illegal immigrants who may have been working off the books and then estimating their unpaid federal taxes is impossible. About half of all illegal immigrants work for cash and do not report their income.

The Senate blocked efforts to collect all illegal immigrants’ back taxes and not just those previously assessed. Senator Orrin Hatch introduced amendments would have required aliens to prove they have paid all federal income and employment taxes plus related interest and penalties for the entire time the applicant has lived in the U.S. Hatch’s Utah colleague, Senator Mike Lee, also introduced a doomed amendment that would have obligated aliens to prove they have no outstanding tax liabilities. Both amendments were voted down.

Second, Congress doesn’t have the political will or the administrative ability to pursue millions of illegal immigrants for years’ worth of tax liabilities. Senator Chuck Schumer, for example, said that requiring every illegal immigrant to pay would ultimately block roughly 5 million from legalization, something he objects to. Whatever form of amnesty legislation that emerges from the House would have to be reconciled with the Senate. Schumer’s opposition to collecting taxes from illegal immigrants is well documented. During the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act, then-U.S. Representative Schumer played a leading role in undermining the act’s tax provision even though, having been signed by President Ronald Reagan, it was law. Boehner would be unlikely to out-maneuver Schumer on taxes. 

Third and most important, many illegal immigrants simply don’t have the money to pay back taxes. A large number rely in part on federal subsidies to meet their basic needs. According to Census Bureau data, 57 percent of households with children under-18 and headed by a legal or illegal immigrant use at least one welfare program. If the immigrant doesn’t have a high school diploma, 80 percent of households access welfare. 

The next few weeks could be the last gasp for amnesty proponents. Mid-term elections are looming and, back home, blanket amnesty remains toxic. But the amnesty bandwagon isn’t going away. The triumvirate of congressional Democrats, the Chamber of Commerce, squishy GOP leadership plus the White House is a powerful mix determined to have its way. In this battle of wills between the amnesty lobby and resistant Americans, many rounds must still be fought.


Joe Guzzardi is a Californians for Population Stabilization Senior Writing Fellow whose columns have been syndicated since 1987. Contact him at [email protected]

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