The Common Good

Congress Needs to Show Moral Leadership in Unemployment Insurance Solution

In only its second week in session, Congress is already confronted with difficult decisions that impact the lives of millions of people — some of whom are the most vulnerable in our society.

Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Shutterstock
One of the solutions would penalize U.S.-citizen children. Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Shutterstock

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The Senate is faced with finding a solution that would extend the unemployment insurance to help a struggling workforce. One of the solutions, proposed by Senator Ayotte (R-NH), would penalize U.S.-citizen children who are part of already struggling immigrant households living in poverty. While it’s important that Congress finds a resolution to the unemployment insurance conundrum, they should not do so by shifting the harm from one group to the next.     

Senator Ayotte’s amendment seeks to offset the temporary extension by denying the child tax credit (CTC) to families who legally file their taxes with an individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN), arguing that only those who have a social security card should qualify for the credit. Current ITIN filers include undocumented immigrants who are parents of U.S.-citizen children, amongst other foreign born groups, which were developed almost two decades ago for tax filing.

ITIN’s are issued by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and were created by Congress and the IRS in 1996for tax purposes. The IRS currently has a set of standards that a U.S.-citizen child must meet in order for household to receive the CTC/ACTC. ITIN’s became a tool by which those who didn’t qualify for social security numbers — foreign nationals and others, including undocumented immigrants — could pay their taxes legally in the U.S. Since the creation of this mechanism, millions of families have filed their taxes through it, which renders billions of gains for federal, state, and local treasuries, not to mention the contributions it makes to Social Security and Medicare, which undocumented immigrants will never benefit from.

Eliminating this critical liver-saver support is not only morally wrong, it would also affect more than two million working families and 4 million American children who will bear the unintended consequences.

What Congress needs to do is should show moral leadership by embracing other options that create opportunity for everyone, rather than pinning groups against each other. Hopefully, each lawmaker will make the morally correct decision for the common good of our nation, and it is our job to remind them that their decisions should not be based on a zero sum game.

Ivone Guillen is the Immigration Associate for Sojourners.

Photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Shutterstock

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