On Thursday, Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK) announced legislation that would fund President Trump’s long-promised southern border wall.
The aptly-named "WALL Act" would allegedly offset the estimated $25 billion cost of the southern border wall by reducing government assistance to illegal immigrants.
First, the legislation would require a "work-authorized Social Security Number (SSN) to claim refundable tax credits, like the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) or the Child Tax Credit."
According to a press release accompanying Inhofe’s announcement, with the way the system currently works, "only the child needs a SSN, not the parent benefiting from the refundable child tax credit." His proposed legislation would require any adult seeking an EITC or Child Tax Credit to provide their own "work-eligible Social Security Number" (SSN).
Second, any individuals applying for various welfare programs would not only have to provide a "work-authorized" Social Security Number, but would be checked against the E-Verify database.
Third, the legislation would ramp up "minimum fines on illegal border crossers."
The above proposal would work in tandem with another piece of legislation introduced by Senator Inhofe in August, called the "Asylum Abuse Reduction Act." This legislation would have those seeking asylum in the United States first make their "credible fear" claim in Mexico, Canada, or another country before "being considered for admittance."
The press release claims that under current practices, "migrants who cross the border illegally and declare asylum are released pending credible fear screenings and other legal procedures, but rarely show up for proceedings."
The legislation would also create a mechanism to identify and apprehend those who have failed to appear for their proceedings. Under the legislation, an asylum seeker who disappears would have a bench warrant on their name. If such an individual were to have a run-in with the law following their failure to appear, the warrant would alert authorities to their unfinished asylum proceedings.
Inhofe’s press release does not state how much money the United States government would save if it were to enact the requirements laid out in his proposed legislation, nor does it offer an estimate. It simply notes that it will "will fully fund the President’s $25 billion border wall while providing specific ways to pay for it."
However, a December 2016 report from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) states in part:
Some people who are not authorized to work in the United States can receive the EITC under current law. Those individuals were issued Social Security numbers before 2003 because they needed them to obtain drivers' licenses and to open bank accounts. SSA no longer issues Social Security numbers for such purposes, but the agency was not able to rescind the numbers obtained before the ban.
Because those numbers were provided to people who were not applying for federal benefits, their Social Security numbers are considered valid for purposes of receiving the EITC.
Under this option, people who are not authorized to work in the United States would not be entitled to either the EITC or the child tax credit. The option would change the definition of a valid Social Security number for the EITC and extend that requirement to the child tax credit. For both credits, taxpayers, spouses, and qualifying children would be required to have Social Security numbers issued to U.S. citizens and non-citizens authorized to work in the United States. If enacted, the option would raise $37 billion from 2017 through 2026, the staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation estimates.
If the estimate from the CBO holds true, the southern border wall could be paid for with as much as $12 billion left over.
On Friday, Inhofe released a video on Twitter in which he elaborates slightly on his idea:
Regarding the verification of individuals applying for EITC or similar programs, Inhofe states: "Now, this isn’t gonna take money away from people who are entitled to it. These are people who are gaming the system."
"The second area," Inhofe says, "has to do with the states. We’re gonna require the states to show and demonstrate that the citizenship is real, that these are really citizens...we’re talking about things like food stamps, things that are federal programs, but they are administered by the state."
As for the fines levied against those crossing the border illegally, Inhofe speaks to the notion that Mexico will be "paying for the wall," saying: "These are Mexicans that are gaming the system, so they are paying for it."