Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–August 20, 2016
By: Michelle Ye Hee Lee
In Hillary Clinton’s America, “illegal immigrants … [are] collecting Social Security benefits, skipping the line.”
–voice-over in a Donald Trump campaign ad, Aug. 19, 2016
The Donald Trump campaign released its first political ad of the general election, focused on immigration. It begins with a hypothetical situation of what immigration would look like under Democrat Hillary Clinton’s America.
The narrator says: “In Hillary Clinton’s America, the system stays rigged against Americans. Syrian refugees flood in. Illegal immigrants convicted of committing crimes get to stay. Collecting Social Security benefits, skipping the line. Our border open. It’s more of the same, but worse.”
Is the claim about undocumented immigrants collecting Social Security benefits accurate?
The ad cites a report on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) programs by the Center for Immigration Studies, which opposes illegal immigration. It also refers to Clinton’s immigration proposal. The Trump campaign did not respond to our request for more information.
Clinton supports “comprehensive immigration reform” and has vowed that within her first 100 days in office, she will introduce a plan to overhaul the immigration system with a pathway to full citizenship. Clinton also supports President Obama’s executive actions on DACA and DAPA. DAPA is pending in court under litigation, and DACA went into effect in 2012.
DAPA and DACA grantees are considered lawfully present in the United States. They can apply for a Social Security number once they receive work permits. They earn Social Security and Medicare benefits through their payroll taxes — meaning they must be paying taxes. To collect the benefits, they must reach retirement age and must have worked for at least 10 years, according to the National Immigration Law Center.
DACA grantees will not yet reach retirement age if Clinton becomes president and serves two terms in office. DACA grantees must have been under 31 as of June 15, 2012, and meet several other criteria to be eligible. So if Clinton serves two terms and leaves office in 2025, the oldest DACA grantees would be 43.
Moreover, once people receive deferred-action status under DACA, they are considered lawfully present in the United States. So they would not be “illegal immigrants,” as the ad says. About 728,000 people have been granted DACA — 6 percent of the estimated undocumented immigrant population of 11 million.
Unauthorized immigrants, who are not granted any deferred-action status, are not eligible to receive Social Security benefits or any other federal means-tested benefits. But they pay taxes and pay into the Social Security system.
Even though the majority of unauthorized immigrants can’t collect the benefits, they paid about $12 billion into the cash flow of the Social Security program in 2010, according to the Social Security actuary. (Some undocumented immigrants could theoretically collect benefits — illegally — if they’ve overstayed their visas or falsely obtained a Social Security number.) That means the U.S. government gets far more than it pays out when it comes to unauthorized immigrants.
In the ad, Trump also talks about Clinton’s proposal for deporting undocumented immigrants convicted of crimes (“Illegal immigrants convicted of committing crimes get to stay,” the ad claims). But Clinton’s proposal would enforce immigration laws by focusing resources on detaining and deporting people who “pose a violent threat to public safety.”
Washington Post opinions writer Greg Sargent pointed out that the language in this ad is inconsistent with Trump’s proposal of mass deportations. All undocumented immigrants are in the United States illegally, and in a sense have all broken the law. But Trump singles out those who are “committing crimes,” which indicates he is prioritizing undocumented immigrants who pose a threat to the public.
While the ad says Clinton’s America would have “open borders,” Clinton has supported efforts to increase border security.
The Pinocchio Test
The Republican presidential nominee makes a bizarre claim that undocumented immigrants will collect Social Security under a Clinton presidency. In general, people in the United States illegally are not eligible to collect Social Security benefits. They must be granted some type of lawful status — either by obtaining legal status or being granted deferred action.
Even then, it’s not accurate to say they are “skipping the line.” People who obtain lawful status under DACA need to work for at least 10 years, pay taxes and reach retirement age before they are eligible to receive Social Security benefits.
Trump has already earned 41 Four-Pinocchio ratings. We would have liked to see the nominee finally stick closer to the facts in his first general-election ad. Unfortunately, this ad is — to borrow a line from its script — “more of the same.” The broad assertion in this ad is just not supported by facts, and thus earns Four Pinocchios.
This analysis appeared in the Washington Post at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/wp/2016/08/20/trumps-false-claim-that-undocumented-immigrants-collect-social-security-benefits/?postshare=1921471689236230&tid=ss_tw