Weekly Immigration Report June 7, 2016: IRS Makes Improper Payments to Illegal Aliens Totaling Billions

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From the Federation for American Immigration Reform

  • Immigration Increased 39% in 2014 and 2015
  • More Than 1,000 Syrians Resettled in U.S. in May
  • IRS Makes Improper Payments to Illegal Aliens Totaling Billions
  • Steinle Family Files Lawsuit against San Francisco Sheriff

Immigration Increased 39% in 2014 and 2015

A new report by the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) revealed that more than 3 million new legal and illegal aliens settled in the United States during 2014 and 2015 — a 39 percent increase over the prior two years. (See CIS,New Data: Immigration Surged in 2014 and 2015, June 2016) The number of arrivals fell to a low in 2010-2011, but has dramatically increased and is now above pre-recession levels. (Id.) The report suggests several factors have likely contributed to the increase, including lax enforcement, an improving economy, and the astonishing growth of our legal immigration system. (Id.)

CIS estimates that about one-third of the 3.1 million aliens who arrived in the last two years, or 1.1 million, were new illegal aliens. This reflects a significant increase from the 700,000 illegal aliens who entered in 2012 and 2013. (Id.) The estimate of illegal immigration represents the flow of new illegal aliens unlawfully crossing the border, overstaying a visa, or being released into the country after a brief detention. (Id.) The available evidence also indicates that the number of new legal aliens, both temporary and permanent, has increased. (Id.) CIS further estimates that the arrival of legal aliens increased approximately 30 percent, from 1.6 million in 2012-2013 to two million in 2014-2015. (Id.) All of the aforementioned numbers are based on U.S. Census Bureau data and no adjustments were made for those that may have been missed by the bureau. (Id.)

The entire report can be viewed here.

More Than 1,000 Syrians Resettled in U.S. in May

The State Department resettled 1,069 Syrians claiming to be refugees last month, more than twice the number who arrived in April. (CQ Today, June 2, 2016) In total, the Obama administration has resettled 2,805 Syrians to the interior of the country thus far this fiscal year (since October 1, 2015). (Id.)

The surge in Syrian resettlement corresponds with President Obama’s announcement to significantly cut the vetting process. In order to meet his self-imposed goal of resettling 10,000 Syrians by the end of the fiscal year (September 30, 2016), President Obama in early April unilaterally reduced the Syrian “refugee” vetting time from 18-24 months down to only three months. (FAIR Legislative Update, Apr. 12, 2016) Alarmingly, the Obama administration is on record saying that 10,000 “is a floor, not a ceiling and it is possible to increase the number.” (Id.) This means they may further cut the vetting process throughout the fiscal year to reach their arbitrarily established resettlement goal.

The Obama administration’s decision to rush the vetting process raises significant national security concerns. First, the expedited vetting process contradicts Obama’s claim that Syrian refugees “are subjected to the most rigorous process conceivable.” (Id.) Indeed, the President even told the American people, “Understand, under current law, it takes anywhere from, on average, 18 to 24 months to clear a refugee to come into the United States.” (Id.)(emphasis added) More importantly, FBI Director James Comey unequivocally told Congress last year that the U.S. cannot properly vet Syrian refugee applicants for terrorist and national security threats. (FAIR Legislative Update, Nov. 24, 2015) Specifically, Director Comey testified that the FBI can query databases “until the cows come home” but “nothing will show up because we have no record” on the person. (Id.)

IRS Makes Improper Payments to Illegal Aliens Totaling Billions

A new report from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration revealed that the federal government “erroneously” paid out $15.6 billion through the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) in Fiscal Year 2015. (Treasury Inspector General Report, April 27, 2016) These improper payments account for 23.8 percent of the total tax dollars distributed through the EITC, with most of the money likely going to illegal aliens. (Id.) The Office of Management and Budget has classified the EITC program a “high-risk” program, making it the only IRS program with this designation. (The Washington Free Beacon, May 23, 2016)

The EITC is a tax credit for lower income tax filers but requires a social security number in order to claim it. (See 26 U.S.C. § 32) If the EITC credit is larger than the tax filer’s tax liability, the difference is paid out directly to the filer. (See FAIR Legislative Update, Mar. 3, 2015)

While it used to be more difficult for illegal aliens to claim the EITC tax credit because they lack social security numbers, the Obama administration’s immigration policies have contributed to the increased fraudulent payments. Specifically, a number of Obama’s executive amnesty programs, including Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), rewards qualifying illegal aliens with a Social Security Number. The Obama administration’s decision to freely give out social security numbers have directly led to the significant number of illegal aliens potentially eligible for EITC.

Outrageously, once eligible for EITC, tax law allows a person to amend their tax returns from the past three years to claim the credits — even if that person was ineligible during those years. The Congressional Research Service — the nonpartisan policy research arm for lawmakers — confirmed that each amnestied illegal alien is eligible for more than $24,000 in tax credits through the EITC. (See FAIR Legislative Update, Feb. 10, 2015)

In addition to erroneous EITC payments, the IG report noted other refunded tax credits that also result in significant improper payments. Notably, the Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC) which is a refundable credit that allows individuals with three or more children to reduce their federal income tax by up to $1,000 for each child who meets certain criteria. The Inspector General found that improper payments for the ACTC program were 24.2 percent in fiscal year 2015, totaling $5.7 billion. (See TIGTA Report, April 27, 2016, The Washington Free Beacon, May 23, 2016)

Like the EITC, an overwhelming amount of the fraudulent ACTC payments go to illegal aliens. For example, an Indianapolis television station uncovered in April 2012 an instance where four illegal aliens alone, sharing a small trailer received $29,608 from the IRS by claiming tax credits for 20 nieces and nephews who live in Mexico. (See FAIR Legislative Update, Mar. 22, 2016) Investigators identified one address in Atlanta where 23,994 ITIN-related tax refunds were sent, including 8,393 refunds deposited into a single bank account. (Id.) Further, the Washington Times found the use of the tax credit by illegal aliens jumped from 796,000 in 2005 to 1.5 million in 2008 and 2.3 million in 2010. (Id.)

While Members of Congress have blasted the IRS for improper and potentially fraudulent payments, neither the House nor Senate leadership has brought legislation addressing this issue up for a vote.

Steinle Family Files Lawsuit against San Francisco Sheriff

The family of Kate Steinle, a 32 year-old woman who was shot to death in 2015 by a criminal alien, filed a lawsuit on May 27 against the San Francisco Sheriff responsible for the criminal alien’s release, as well as the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM). (Fox News, May 27, 2016) The criminal alien had been previously released from law enforcement custody pursuant to a sanctuary policy. The Steinle family filed administrative complaints against the same defendants late last August. (FAIR Legislative Update, Sept. 9, 2015)

The accused murderer, Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, is an illegal alien with seven convictions and five deportations under his belt. (FAIR Legislative Update, Jul. 8, 2015) Lopez-Sanchez was previously in federal custody and would have been deported for the sixth time before he was transported to San Francisco to address a 20 year-old drug charge. (Id.) When the charge was thrown out by the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office, the Sheriff’s Department refused to honor a detainer request to transfer Lopez-Sanchez to ICE. (Id.) Instead, the Sheriff’s Department, pursuant to its sanctuary policy, released Lopez-Sanchez back into the community. (Id.) Just a few months later, Lopez-Sanchez fatally shot Steinle at a popular tourist site in San Francisco.

The Steinle family’s wrongful death claim alleges then-San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi’s sanctuary policy, which prohibited law enforcement from cooperating with ICE’s request to transfer custody of Lopez-Sanchez, is to blame for the killing of Steinle. (Complaint) San Francisco, a self-proclaimed “sanctuary city,” has multiple policies in place to protect criminal aliens from detection and removal from the United States. (Executive Directive 07-01; Press Release, May 29, 2014) These policies restrict law enforcement from cooperating with federal immigration officials and complying with detainer requests, often called ICE holds, to facilitate the transfer of criminal aliens to federal custody. (Id.)

The complaint alleges Sheriff Mirkarimi acted negligently and violated federal laws requiring local officials to be able to openly communicate with ICE regarding the immigration status of an individual. (Complaint) The Steinle family also blamed ICE for its failure to detain and deport Lopez-Sanchez upon his release from custody. (Id.)BLM is also named as a defendant because the gun that Lopez-Sanchez used to kill Steinle belonged to a BLM agent who had reported it stolen. (Id.)

In addition to initiating legal action against the federal government and San Francisco, the Steinle family has become strong advocates for the repeal of San Francisco’s sanctuary policy and the California TRUST Act, a statewide sanctuary policy which has been in effect since 2014. Recently, the San Francisco County Board of Supervisors took a small step towards dismantling the County’s sanctuary policy by voting unanimously to allow the County Sheriff’s Office to contact ICE if the criminal alien in custody is being charged with a felony and has been convicted of a felony within the last seven years. (San Francisco Examiner, May 25, 2016) The measure, however, falls short of enacting real public safety improvements because if a criminal alien is charged with anything less than a felony, the Sheriff’s office will still be prohibited from contacting ICE or transferring custody of the alien to the federal government. (Id.)