A reporter called and asked me about two draft executive orders dealing with immigration that had been located by the Washington Post.
Both orders were dated January 23, and were signed by Andrew Bremberg, the new White House policy director. One was a largely useful, if not always very precise, document dealing with the various ways that American workers should be protected from alien competition, which may be discussed in a later posting.
The other was entitled: "Executive Order on Protecting Taxpayer Resources by Ensuring Our Immigration Laws Promote Accountability and Responsibility".
That document's objective seems to be reducing of the use of welfare programs by aliens and the importance of taking seriously the "public charge" elements of the immigration laws — aliens who are or who become "public charges" should not be welcome here.
That is all well and good, but a huge set of financial arrangements in which the government pays legal and illegal aliens was missed — the extent to which aliens are paid by the Treasury, usually through income tax refunds — to stay in the United States. (This was not discussed in the other draft order either.)
Let me point out three numbers; each is the total expenditure by the federal government, including many legitimate ones, on three different programs in 2015:
- IRS tax refunds on income tax filings: $271 billion
- SNAP (food stamps): $69 billion
- TANF (the old AFDC): $16 billion (plus some state funds)
Now most aliens in the United States do not have these totals at their fingertips, but they know from conversations with their peers that tax refunds are much more available than SNAP and TANF put together. They may also sense — as I do — that it is far more difficult to get a payment from the government than a refund. I wrote recently of various ways that the tax system can be used to fund an enhanced enforcement of the immigration law.
So illicit or questionable use of tax refunds is a much bigger problem than the smaller-scale challenge of the aliens who become public charges, but the refunds issue was overlooked.
One hopes as time passes, and as policy gets made through a more organized process, that big gaps like this one will become less frequent.