Removing the Child Tax Credit: Creating Burdens for Immigrant Children and Families

On December 9, 2011, the House passed legislation that pays for the payroll tax cut to middle-class households by denying a child tax credit to immigrant families. Immigrant families, in many cases households with U.S. citizen children, are among the many taxpayers who do not have Social Security Numbers and pay their taxes through the use of an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). In 2010, ITIN taxpayers contributed more than $9 million into Social Security and Medicare.

The House of Representatives has proposed excluding families who pay their taxes with an ITIN from receiving the Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC). This credit offers up to a $1,000 tax break for millions of parents to offset the costs of raising children and to reduce child poverty. A family can claim up to $1,000 per child, which makes an immense impact in helping low-income families make ends meet and helped lift 2.3 million people, including 1.3 million children, above the poverty line in 2009.

In most instances, ITIN filers are low-income families already struggling to pay their bills, as over 60% of families receiving this credit earn less than $25,000 per year. This modification to the ACTC would target approximately 4 million U.S. citizen children being raised in 2 million immigrant households. Families would experience immediate hardship with fewer funds for basic necessities such as groceries, utility bills and childcare.

Congress is currently considering this particular cut to pay for the long-term extension of a payroll tax cut and unemployment insurance. In upcoming negotiations, lawmakers should protect immigrant taxpayer eligibility for the ACTC and oppose measures that would create a financial burden for immigrant children and families. Visit the LIRS Action Center  to urge your members of Congress to protect immigrant children from poverty.

HEADLINES: Immigration

More than 5,000 children of immigrants are languishing in state foster care nationwide because their parents were living in the United States illegally and were detained or deported by federal immigration authorities. These children can spend years in foster homes, and some are put up for adoption after termination of their parents’ custody rights.With neither state nor federal officials addressing the problem, thousands more are poised to enter the child welfare system every year. “They can be dropped into the foster care system for an indefinite period of time,” says Wendy D. Cervantes, vice president for immigration and child rights policy at First Focus, a bipartisan advocacy organization in Washington, D.C. “This causes severe long-term consequences to a child’s development. It has a negative impact on the country as a whole and a direct impact on taxpayers. The fact that these children have parents means they shouldn’t be in the system in the first place.” A recent report by the Applied Research Center (ARC), a national racial-justice think thank, found that when immigration enforcement methods intersect with the child welfare system, consequences for immigrant families can be devastating and long-lasting. [Huffington Post]

Immigrant rights advocates are making their voice heard in Olympia as hundreds gathered to sway legislators on state immigration laws. Those are immigrant rights advocates rallying on the steps of the Washington state house. They want to convince lawmakers in Olympia to keep E-verify optional for Washington employers. E-verify allows businesses to check whether a worker has the necessary legal documents. Critics say the federal database is flawed, and can get the wrong people kicked out of the country. [Oregon Public Broadcasting]

The United States needs to ease restrictions on immigrants who plan to open businesses, and create a separate visa for potential entrepreneurs, according to a report by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Current immigration laws make it difficult for people to enter the United States and start a business, according to the report, released today by the Chamber and the Immigration Policy Center of the American Immigration Council. Expansion of the visa program would also aid companies’ access to foreign-born graduates of U.S. universities, helping economic growth, the authors of the report said. Immigrant entrepreneurs established 18 percent of the Fortune 500 companies, according to a June 2011 report from the Partnership for a New American Economy, a group of business leaders and mayors that advocates for immigration reform. Those companies, such as Google Inc., Big Lots Inc. and Comcast Corp. generated $1.7 trillion in revenue in 2010 and had 3.7 million employees worldwide, the report said. “They are going to contribute and succeed somewhere — why shouldn’t it be the United States?” Thomas Donohue, the Chamber’s chief executive officer, said in a Jan. 12 speech in Washington. [BusinessWeek]


Senate Committee Advances No Child Left Behind Act Amidst Concerns from Civil Rights and Business Groups, State Education Officials, and Education Advocates

Late last week the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee approved legislation which aims to overhaul the national educational plan, “No Child Left Behind.” According to the bill’s authors, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 2011 would revamp the U.S. educational system by putting a greater emphasis on state and local leadership and moving away from a strict national model.

A coalition of civil rights groups, business groups, state education officials, and other education advocates recently withdrew its support for the bill due to concerns that the measure would narrow the achievement gaps for English language learners, amongst other student groups. In a statement, the coalition declared:

As representatives of the millions of students with disabilities, low-income students, students of color, English language learners and migrant students who are studying in our nation’s schools, both boys and girls, we cannot support the Elementary and Secondary Education Reauthorization Act of 2011 at this time. The bill’s weak accountability system excludes the vast majority of children we represent, and is a major barrier to our organizations’ support.

Stay tuned for further updates on the progress of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 2011 and how the bill addresses the needs of English language learners.

In the meantime, visit the LIRS Action Center to urge Congress and the Administration to support the integration of refugees and migrants in the United States.

Help HAITI Act

Yesterday, the House of Representatives passed by voice vote a revised version of the Help Haitian Adoptees Immediately to Integrate Act of 2010 (Help HAITI Act), bipartisan legislation that would provide permanency to over 1,000 Haitian orphans who were evacuated to the United States after the devastating January 12, 2010 earthquake and placed with American families. Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) celebrates the bill’s passage and applauds Representative Fortenberry (R-NE-1) and Senator Gillibrand (D-NY) for their important leadership on this issue.

On January 18, 2010, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced a humanitarian parole policy to allow certain orphaned Haitian children who were already in the adoption process at the time of the earthquake to enter the United States to ensure they received the care they needed. At the request of the government of Haiti, on April 14, 2010, DHS stopped accepting new parole requests. During this three month period, more than 1,000 Haitian children arrived to the United States to live with their prospective American adoptive parents. Federal immigration law requires children to wait for two years after being in the custody of the adoptive parents to file to adjust their immigration status. To provide these Haitian children with permanency in the United States, the Haiti HELP Act would waive the two year wait and allow them to immediately apply for U.S. citizenship upon completion of the adoption.

“These children have been through so much,” noted LIRS President and CEO Linda Hartke. “They experienced the earthquake, a very traumatic event, lost their parents, and then moved to a new country where few people speak their language or know their culture. Stability is absolutely what these vulnerable children need.”

For over 30 years, LIRS has partnered with the federal government to serve unaccompanied refugee children admitted to the United States and is one of only two national agencies that serves these youth. In 2003, LIRS began working with unaccompanied immigrant children in the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services. LIRS has also worked with domestic and international child welfare experts to establish protocols for children who become separated from customary caregivers in times of crisis. A couple of weeks after the Haiti earthquake, LIRS briefed Congress and called for durable solutions that meet the needs of these children.

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