During a radio interview with Breitbart host and former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling on Wednesday, Rep. Steve King (R-IA) promoted his idea for a tax bill amendment that would both punish business owners who hire undocumented immigrants and crack down on immigration itself.
“Talk to me about this,” Schilling said, quoting from King’s New IDEA Act, which was first introduced back in January. “‘Denying tax deductions for wages and benefits paid to or on behalf of illegal workers.’ You’re looking at what, almost a quarter trillion dollars over a decade?”
“Yes, and actually a little more than that,” King said. “Our number comes up to $254 billion over a decade, $25.4 billion a year.”
He then explained that the amendment “recognizes that we’ve got employers all over this country that are employing millions of illegal aliens” and that they were “taking jobs from Americans, or legal immigrants” while being paid “substandard wages.”
“The employers know this, they turn a blind eye, they comply technically, in many cases, with the letter of the law, but certainly not the spirit of the law,” he said. “And so I wrote legislation that brought the IRS into this, because, at the time at least, it was the only agency that was respected to enforce the law.”
King’s suggestion, in short, is messy: it would essentially use tax reform as a vehicle for pushing harsh immigration reform by requiring employers to submit I-9 information for all employees under the E-Verify system. Any employers who refuse to do so would be automatically audited, exposing any undocumented immigrants for deportation.
“It clarifies and changes the statute so that wages [and benefits] paid to illegals are not deductible for federal income tax purposes,” King said. “…The IRS, during a normal audit, would run the I-9 information…of the employees that are listed in your tax form through E-Verify. And if the employer uses E-Verify, they get safe-harbor, otherwise the IRS can deny that, if it’s wages to illegals.”
He added, “You get a six-year statue of limitations. So, going forward, you’d accumulate that much potential liability and require the Social Security Administration and the Department of Homeland Security to cooperate with the IRS, so that everybody exchanges information for the purposes of enforcing immigration law. It’s no cost to enforce.”
King, who said on Wednesday that he first proposed his IDEA Act “probably 10 years ago,” has a turbulent history when it comes to immigration. Over the years, the Republican senator has made troubling, at times outright racist, comments about undocumented immigrants — in March, he even tweeted that “we can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.”
King has also dedicated his career to cracking down on immigration. He is a staunch critic of the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (or DACA) and a supporter of President Trump’s proposed border wall, even advocating that the government dip into funding for things like food stamps and Planned Parenthood to pay for it.
“I’m really sorry that you come from a lawless country. I hope that you can have a happy life. But please, do not erode the rule of law in America,” he told one DACA recipient during a fundraiser in 2014.
He also told reporters in September that DACA recipients should “live in the shadows” or return to their home country as Peace Corps volunteers.
King’s proposed amendment is especially confounding given his claim that undocumented workers are a strain on the country. As multiple studies have shown, nearly half of undocumented immigrants already pay state, federal, and local taxes but never receive benefits in return. One analysis done by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, a D.C.-based think tank, showed that those immigrants generated around $10.6 billion in state and local taxes in 2010 alone, for which they were not granted any social security benefits.
“So many people say we are here burdening the country, but we are paying their retirements,” one worker from Central Mexico told The Atlantic in September 2016.
Additionally, the fallacy that undocumented immigrants are somehow “stealing” jobs from American workers is a myth. According to the nonpartisan Brookings Institute, immigrants traditionally take jobs that American workers will not — “unpleasant, back-breaking jobs that native-born workers are not willing to do,” wrote Brookings Senior Fellow Vanda Felbab-Brown.
Rather than contributing to the decline of the American workforce, as King suggests, migrant workers are also tied to greater and more positive economic growth and innovation.
“We[‘ve] found [immigrant workers have] little to no negative effects on overall wages and employment of native-born workers in the longer term,” Francine D. Blau, economics professor at Cornell University, wrote in a 550-page study published by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine in 2016.