House Votes To Gut Tax Benefit For Low-Income Immigrant Families


The House approved a measure Friday that would gut a tax credit intended to help poor working families. The bill would require applicants for the Child Tax Credit (CTC) to provide a Social Security number to receive the refundable portion of the tax credit, a stipulation that not many current immigrant beneficiaries have. As it stands, taxpaying beneficiaries can use Individual Tax Identification Numbers (ITIN) to claim the refundable portion. The House bill passed with a vote of 237–173, largely along party lines.

Congress approved the CTC in 1998 to lift low-income families out of poverty, but if the bill passes as law, many low-income families could be in jeopardy by 2017. According to Talk Poverty, the CTC provides a tax credit of up to $1,000 per child depending on a family’s income and “the credit increases as a family’s income rises, with higher-income families receiving a larger credit.” The bill would expand the eligibility to higher-income families who make upwards of $205,000, so that a couple with two children making between $150,000 and $205,000 could become eligible for the credit and receive a new tax cut of $2,200 in 2018, according to a Center on Budget and Policy Priorities blog.

The Obama administration threatened to veto the measure, arguing that the measure would eliminate the Child Tax Credit for five million families, while cutting it for six million more.

Critics argue that the bill would only push low-income families deeper into poverty and would seriously jeopardize the livelihood of mixed status families with at least one immigrant parent and one U.S.-born child. Immigrant parents of U.S. children are able to receive the CTC because some possess an Individual Tax Identification Numbers (ITIN), which allows people who are ineligible for Social Security numbers to file taxes. Talk Poverty explained that, “in practice, many ITIN filers are undocumented immigrants who are living and working in the United States.” The average income for ITIN families was about $21,200 and their average CTC refund was $1,800.

“It is time we make some simple improvements to the child tax credit, so it keeps up with the cost of raising children,” Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee told the Associated Press.

Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) tweeted, “The day after Paul Ryan releases his poverty plan, @HouseGOP votes to push 6 million kids deeper into poverty. Shameful.”

Sue Chinn, the National Campaign Manager of the Alliance for Citizenship said in an email press statement, “We support any expansion of the child tax credit to more families, however this House leadership once again showed how dead-set they are against immigrant families.”

Chinn added that House Republicans “are taking food out of the mouths of more than 5.5 million children whose parents are just like every other American parent, working hard for them to provide a better life.”

House Republicans have previous voted against measures that would allow taxpaying immigrants to contribute more to the society. In this past year, they voted three times to defund a program that allows some undocumented immigrants granted temporary work authorization known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) beneficiaries. Many of those beneficiaries have Social Security numbers that allow them to pay taxes.