Today, U.S. Senators Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Marco Rubio (R-Florida) introduced four common-sense amendments to the immigration reform bill (S.744) to further strengthen the legislation. The Hatch-Rubio amendments will ensure that those newly legalized immigrants pay their back taxes, that federal welfare requirements are fully complied with, that there is a five-year waiting period for ObamaCare tax credits and subsidies after becoming permanent residents, and that unauthorized workers are prohibited from receiving Social Security benefits. Hatch filed similar amendments during Senate Judiciary Committee consideration of the underlying bill.
Senator Hatch said: "As I told my colleagues on the Judiciary Committee, my support in committee did not guarantee my support for the bill on the floor unless further changes were made to make this bill better. These common-sense amendments that Senator Rubio and I are introducing today will go a long way to garner broader support from across America and throughout the Senate for this legislation.
"What we are talking about is a basic fairness that those wanting to become American citizens have to play by the rules, just as Americans do today. Who can argue against ensuring that these immigrants pay their back taxes, or that they don't have the right to immediate government benefits? The American people are kind and compassionate, and we're a nation of immigrants who came to this land in search of a better life. The overwhelming majority of those that have come to our shores come not in search of a handout from American taxpayers, but rather in search of creating a stronger foundation for themselves and the generations who will come after them.
"These are thoughtful amendments that ensure a basic fairness for both those wanting to become American citizens, and for American taxpayers. Senator Rubio understands that, and I hope our colleagues join us in supporting them."
Senator Rubio said: "The vast majority of immigrants who come to America, whether legally or not, come in search of a chance at a better life, not to become dependent on government. The purpose of this immigration bill cannot and should not be to provide as many immigrants as possible with as many government benefits as possible.
"From the start of this process, the bipartisan group of senators that wrote the bill committed firmly to the principle of no federal benefits. Since the immigration legislation was introduced two months ago, many valid concerns have been raised about ways the American people could potentially get stuck with the bill of fixing our broken immigration system, particularly as it relates to federal benefits.
"We must find a way to address these concerns, and Senator Hatch has developed serious and reasonable measures to ensure that this immigration bill reflects the core principle that those who have violated our laws will not receive federal benefits. Amendments like these are being offered in good faith and should ultimately enjoy broad-based bipartisan support because we simply cannot burden the American taxpayer with the costs of federal benefits being granted to illegal immigrants."
Below are descriptions of the four amendments that the Senators are introducing today:
Compliance with welfare, public benefits laws: This amendment would prevent the Obama Administration from undermining welfare reform and ensure that no noncitizen will get welfare. Under S. 744, the prohibitions for federal means-tested public benefits, described in Title IV of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, such as cash welfare, are extended to Registered Provisional Immigrants (RPI), Blue Card holders and aliens admitted to the United States. However, under the Department of Health and Human Services' current interpretation of its authority to waive federal welfare work requirements, welfare benefits could be paid to fugitive felons and parole violators; families where the adult has exceeded five years of federal welfare assistance; non-citizens with a five-year ban on assistance; and, medical services, such as abortion. This amendment explicitly prevents any cash welfare payments going to non-citizens and upholds the key principles of welfare reform.
Payment of back taxes: This amendment would clarify the underlying bill to ensure that certain immigrant applicants satisfy their lawful federal tax obligations during any period of their U.S. residency by requiring that immigrant applicants must demonstrate to the Treasury Department (or Internal Revenue Service) that they have actually paid their back taxes, and continue to pay taxes.
Five-year waiting period for ObamaCare tax credits, subsidies: This amendment requires a five-year waiting period for individuals going through the RPI and Blue Card pathway when they become legal permanent residents for tax credits and cost-sharing subsidies under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). The amendment simply aligns the five-year waiting period that applies to other federal means-tested health programs, like Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) to the premium tax credits and cost sharing subsides under PPACA. This is a common-sense fix that ensures individuals will not become a new public charge when they gain legal permanent resident status. Furthermore, this amendment also ensures that, similar to RPI and Blue Card holders, non-immigrants will be prohibited from accessing PPACA tax credits and subsidies.
Prohibits Social Security benefits to unauthorized workers: This amendment helps protect the Social Security program by ensuring that those not authorized to work in this country cannot claim unauthorized earnings to gain eligibility for Social Security coverage, and stops the Social Security Administration, for the purpose of determining Social Security coverage, from counting taxes paid by unauthorized workers, including those who posted earnings using made-up or stolen Social Security numbers.