Illegals Granted Social Security; Senate Refuses to Strip out Provision

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Byline: Charles Hurt, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The Senate voted yesterday to allow illegal aliens to collect Social Security benefits based on past illegal employment - even if the job was obtained through forged or stolen documents.

"There was a felony they were committing, and now they can't be prosecuted. That sounds like amnesty to me," said Sen. John Ensign, the Nevada Republican who offered the amendment yesterday to strip out those provisions of the immigration reform bill. "It just boggles the mind how people could be against this amendment."

The Ensign amendment was defeated on a 50-49 vote.

"We all know that millions of undocumented immigrants pay Social Security and Medicare taxes for years and sometimes decades while they work to contribute to our economy," said Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican.

"The Ensign amendment would undermine the work of these people by preventing lawfully present immigrant workers from claiming Social Security benefits that they earned before they were authorized to work in our community," he said. "If this amendment were enacted, the nest egg that these immigrants have worked hard for would be taken from them and their families."

Mr. Ensign was among 44 Republicans and five Democrats who voted to block such payouts.

"It makes no sense to reward millions of illegal immigrants for criminal behavior while our Social Security system is already in crisis," said Sen. Jim DeMint, South Carolina Republican. "Why in the world would we endorse this criminal activity with federal benefits? The Senate missed a big opportunity to improve this bill, and I doubt American seniors will be pleased with the result."

Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat, said it would be unfair to deny illegals the benefits.

"We should not steal their funds or empty their Social Security accounts," he said. "That is not fair. It does not reward their hard work or their financial contributions. It violates the trust that underlies the Social Security Trust Fund. …