Today’s immigration hard-liners are characterized by an almost religious devotion to proposing draconian immigration laws; even when these policies plainly conflict with our nation’s economic interests. In a recent interview, Rep. Steve King (R-IA) gave a preview of his legislative priorities should he become chairman of the House’s immigration subcommittee next year.
One of King’s top priorities would be passing a bill that requires the IRS to share immigration status information with the Social Security Administration and the Department of Homeland Security. In other words, King wants the IRS to rat out undocumented immigrants who file tax returns to DHS and have them deported.
Since 1996, the IRS has given nearly 14 million Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITINs) to individuals without Social Security numbers, most of whom are undocumented immigrants. One IRS official estimated that ITIN filers have paid nearly $50 billion in income taxes to date. All of this hinges on the assumption that the IRS doesn’t share personal information with DHS or other agencies. Ending this firewall between federal agencies all but guarantees undocumented immigrants would no longer pay federal or state taxes, and retreat even further into the underground economy. In addition, undocumented immigrants would probably stop using ITINs to open bank accounts and establish credit histories needed to buy homes or open businesses.
Given the state of our economy, this is a ridiculous policy proposal. But it seems Rep. King is willing to pass any law that serves the interest of his restrictionist agenda, even if there’s no broader benefit. Not for nothing did he receive an A+ grade from NumbersUSA, an anti-immigrant organization that aims to reduce the number of immigrants—including legal immigrants—in the United States.
Immigration restrictionists are blind to the massive economic contributions immigrants make to this country, so blind that they can only support costly enforcement-only policies. The 2011 Congress needs to instead pass immigration laws rooted in the reality that we all rely on immigrants’ economic activities, regardless of their citizenship status. Unfortunately, with Rep. King and his cronies at the helm in the House, we’ll likely get nothing more than far-fetched enforcement schemes.