After the Senate’s plan to temporarily extend unemployment insurance for 1.3 million people advanced Tuesday, Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) offered to axe a vital tax credit for immigrant families to appease Republicans’ insistence that the emergency benefits be offset by spending cuts.
Ayotte proposed an amendment Tuesday to make low-income American citizen children of undocumented immigrants ineligible for the refundable Additional Child Tax Credit by requiring parents have a Social Security number to claim the credit. On the Senate floor, Ayotte claimed the benefits are being exploited by “people who are claiming a refundable tax credit for children who should not be entitled to it” and asserted, “Many of these children do not even live in the United States or may not even exist.”
This talking point isn’t new; despite shaky evidence, Republicans have repeatedly used the Child Tax Credit fraud myth to try to shut down this lifeline to mixed-status families. In reality, about 4 million U.S.-born children depend on the Child Tax Credit. Because the credit is meant to keep children out of dire poverty, the immigration status of the parent is considered irrelevant under current law.
Of course, in order to claim this tax credit, undocumented immigrants must pay federal taxes in the first place. Though they cannot reap most of the benefits their tax dollars fund, undocumented families pay about $13 billion a year in payroll taxes, not to mention roughly $10.6 billion in state and local taxes. As undocumented parents are often stuck in the lowest-paid and most-exploited jobs, paying these taxes can be crippling without the refundable Child Tax Credit.
According to the National Council of La Raza, sealing off this credit from undocumented immigrants could endanger about $1,800 in a typical family’s annual income, a sum that could make all the difference to a community disproportionately plagued by poverty, hunger, and health issues.