Don’t Let the Senate Price Immigrants Out of Citizenship: Amendments Will Block the Road to Citizenship for Millions

By Leticia Miranda, Senior Policy Advisor, Economic Security Policy, NCLR

FINAL_immigration-family-budget-infographic-6-11-13 (2)Momentum is certainly on the side of immigration reform, but the reality is that there are still plenty of ways that the current debate over the Senate immigration bill, S. 744, can go south.  It’s no secret that some senators are attempting to restrict the pool of potential applicants for legalization.  One way to do that is to essentially price them out of the process by piling on amendments that would drive up the costs.

Similar to previous generations of immigrants, today’s aspiring citizens are doing hard work in difficult jobs for lower wages than other Americans.  The typical aspiring citizen is a married person with two children who works and earns about $34,400 annually.  Like many Americans, they spend most of their family’s budget covering basic living expenses such as housing, transportation, food, taxes, and expenses related to raising children.  They have enough to just get by, with little left over at the end of the month.

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Under the Senate Judiciary Committee version of S. 744, the road to citizenship is already tough.  It will be difficult for many of these hardworking families to afford the stiff fines and fees associated with legalization.  Under the bill, a registered provisional immigrant (RPI) family would pay $3,000 in fines and an additional estimated $5,000 in fees over ten years as they progress through the legalization process.  Families will need to save $800 per year to have enough to pay all the fines and fees.  But some senators don’t think this already tough bill goes far enough and are determined to increase the price tag.

Potential pitfalls that could block the road to citizenship include:

Just the additional costs of those two amendments alone would leave RPI families in the hole by almost $5,000.  But why stop there?  An additional amendment, Hatch-Rubio #1249, would attack future finances.  This amendment seeks to deny newly legalized workers the Social Security benefits they earned through their prior work and payroll tax payments, despite the fact that these hardworking taxpayers have already contributed over $200 billion in payroll taxes to the Social Security Trust Fund.  This Hatch-Rubio amendment punishes immigrant taxpayers.

The objective of immigration reform is to restore the rule of law by creating a real roadmap to citizenship for qualified families who are working and contributing positively to their communities.  If Senators Hatch, Rubio, and Sessions are determined to extract their pound of flesh from aspiring citizens, then they are seriously jeopardizing the goals of this legislation.

The Senate bill already makes earning legal status extraordinarily difficult, lengthy, and expensive.  What do we have to gain from adding unnecessary obstacles to legalization for families simply trying to come out of the shadows?

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