Recent revelations that President Obama’s executive action on immigration includes loopholes allowing undocumented immigrants to potentially collect tax refunds and commit voter fraud are fueling outrage — even among Americans who overwhelmingly support reforming our antiquated immigration system. It’s also creating the impression that Hispanic immigrants come to America for a free ride, and nothing could be further from the truth.
Last week, in an embarrassing admission, IRS Commissioner, Jon Koskinen confirmed that the White House never contacted the agency to inquire about potential tax consequences of granting new social security numbers to four million undocumented immigrants who qualified for the program. He also confirmed that under the executive order – issued in November — even undocumented immigrants who didn’t pay taxes would be eligible for tax refunds for up to three years back if they could prove they worked off the books during those years.
Meanwhile, Secretaries of State in numerous states, including Kansas and Ohio, say the executive action will make it easier for those participating in the program to commit voter fraud and that their states do not have the tools or laws to prevent it.
It’s debatable whether these mistakes are intentional or merely the byproduct of hastily putting together a political solution to our immigration problem. Had there been a greater emphasis on negotiating a compromise on immigration, there could have been a proper debate on difficult issues such as how immigrants would become right with the law and how to address issues such as tax credits, social security numbers, or other critical questions. Instead, today they are a default position because of a poorly thought out executive order. Either way, this executive action is having the perverse effect of turning some fair minded Americans against immigration and misrepresenting the true motivations of hard-working Hispanic immigrants.
The truth is, most undocumented immigrants come here for economic opportunity and the American Dream. They aren’t seeking tax credits or handouts. They seek permission to stay in the U.S. to work, and in some cases to pursue citizenship. Indeed, many immigrants do not even desire U.S. citizenship, preferring a work visa that would allow them to work seasonally and to legally cross the border into their home country as needed.
The media has failed to report the fact that there was actually bipartisan support in Congress for work visas and a deal could have been struck on that issue, but the White House’s electoral goals trumped the agreement and “a path to citizenship” became a dealbreaker for Democrats. Here again, the political and electoral calculations of the Obama Administration superseded important and incremental immigration reform that would have helped undocumented immigrants. The Democrats’ all or nothing approach to immigration created the gridlock that opened the door to executive action and the result may not be good for Hispanics or America’s race relations in the long run.
By granting 4 million undocumented immigrants social security numbers that can potentially be misused through loopholes in our tax code and voting laws, President Obama is poisoning the waters of public perception and reinforcing negative stereotypes of Latinos and all immigrants. It’s a real disservice to the Latino community. Hispanics have an enviable work ethic and are highly entrepreneurial, starting businesses at two times the rate of Americans as a whole. They come for the American Dream — not for American freebees. They simply want to work and to make a better life for themselves and their families.
If the Obama administration truly cared and had the best interest of Hispanic immigrants at heart, they would have worked harder to find common ground and bipartisan buy-in on something as important as immigration reform. They would not have created more racial divisiveness by pitting Hispanics against Americans of good will who were calling for border security to be a part of the plan at a time of heightened national concern.
Just as importantly, prior to moving forward on a controversial executive action, they would have taken the time to ensure that systems were put in place to eliminate loopholes that create the potential and appearance of fraud and abuse.
But they didn’t. And now, America’s most recent wave of hardworking immigrants will pay the price by having their reputations and motivations to come to America called into question. With friends like these, who needs enemies?