Friday, January 12, 2007

Anti-immigration hysteria

The headline was breathless: "Hasta la Vista, Social Security!" In the editorial in Investors Business Daily, the writer recounts how Bush is about to sign an agreement with Mexico that will let illegal aliens earn Social Security benefits. Even worse, they'll be eligible after paying Social Security taxes for as little as 18 months -- when U.S. citizens need to pay in for 10 years to get benefits.

That got my B.S. meter tingling. The tingling got stronger when the editorial went on to cite doomsday statistics from a study by the Center for Immigration Studies -- a rabidly anti-immigration think tank.

I didn't care that much. Illegal aliens pay Social Security taxes already, even though they can't collect. That's never bothered me much; call it a tax for being here illegally. But letting people collect benefits they've paid for doesn't bother me much, either.

Still, I'm a blogger: I enjoy tracking down provable cases of political mendacity or stupidity. So I did some digging.

The source for the story is a retired veteran's group, the TREA Senior Citizen's League, which is very proud of the fact that they finally got a copy of the "totalization agreement" after three years of trying. Their press release is full of dire warnings of what could eventually happen if this agreement becomes law.

Lucky for me, they posted the text of the agreement (pdf) on their website.

So I read it, and.... they're just flat wrong.

The pact is a reciprocity agreement between Mexico and the United States, intended to keep Mexican and U.S. citizens from being penalized at retirement for time spent working abroad. It solely and specifically talks about *legal* workers -- those sent here for short durations by their employers.

The "18 months" provision appears to be a reference to Article 5, which says that when determining eligibility for retirement benefits, the United States must take into account time credited to the Mexican retirement system. And they don't get benefits after 18 months unless they have 8.5 years of additional credit from Mexico.

Nowhere does it entitle illegals to benefits. It's a mirror of agreements we have with 20 other countries.

Turns out the Cato Institute -- no friend of Social Security -- agrees with me:

This agreement has absolutely nothing to do with immigration, legal or illegal. It concerns Mexicans working legally in this country and Americans doing the same in Mexico, our second-largest trading partner. It would not change current law prohibiting payment of Social Security benefits to people living illegally in the United States. Even if illegal immigrants were someday given a path to citizenship, under the Social Security Protection Act of 2004, they would still be prohibited from receiving credit for Social Security taxes they paid while working illegally.

Immigration, and especially illegal immigration, is a legitimate issue. But breathless, baseless hype like this only points up how some anti-immigration hardliners are willing to play loose with the facts to advance their point.

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Blogger LonewackoDotCom said...

Indeed. Now, I'm a little worried about trusting the Cato Institute given that at least one of their fellows is an open borders nut who was involved in Bush's original GuestWorker scheme.

But, I have no problem whatsoever with fully trusting the Bush administration's statement that it will only cost $105 million for the first five years. After all, they've never lied before. And, I'm also not worried about loopholes or future legislation that would indeed give SS bennies to IllegalAliens.

It's not like that was in the Senate Bill or anything, right?


1/12/2007 11:49 PM  
Blogger KC said...

Off topic, but whenever I see a post labeled "partisan hacks," it makes me smile.

What a great label. :)

1/13/2007 1:48 AM  

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