AP cited only single anonymous Republican official in support of stimulus falsehood

››› ››› JEREMY HOLDEN

A revised version of an AP article made clear that the claim of a "top Republican congressional official" reported in the original version of the article -- that the economic stimulus package being considered in Congress "could steer government checks to illegal immigrants" -- is false. But at no point in the original article did the AP indicate that it had contacted or attempted to contact any Democratic officials -- or anyone else besides the single anonymous Republican official -- to confirm whether the legislation would permit undocumented immigrants to receive tax credits.

As Media Matters for America documented, a January 29 Associated Press article headlined, "Hill Republican: Stimulus aids illegal immigrants," reported: "The $800 billion-plus economic stimulus measure making its way through Congress could steer government checks to illegal immigrants, a top Republican congressional official asserted Thursday." Staff writer Julie Hirschfeld Davis went on to falsely claim that the legislation "would allow people who don't have Social Security numbers to be eligible for the checks." A revised version of the AP article made clear that the claim made by the "top Republican congressional official" -- and repeated by the AP -- is, in fact, false. But at no point in her original article did Davis indicate that she had contacted or attempted to contact any Democratic officials -- or anyone else besides the single anonymous "top Republican congressional official" -- to confirm whether the legislation would permit undocumented immigrants to receive tax credits.

The revised AP article reported: "Two senior GOP congressional officials expressed concern Thursday that the bill could steer government checks to undocumented workers, but in fact the measure indicates that Social Security numbers are needed to claim tax credits of $500 per worker and $1,000 per couple. It also expressly disqualifies nonresident aliens."

A January 29 headline on the Drudge Report stated, "Hill Republican: Stimulus Gives Cash To Illegals," and linked to the initial AP article. The Drudge Report did not remove the headline or the link to the original version of the AP article until roughly four hours after the new version was available, as Media Matters noted.

From the initial version of the AP article, headlined, "Hill Republican: Stimulus aids illegal immigrants":

The $800 billion-plus economic stimulus measure making its way through Congress could steer government checks to illegal immigrants, a top Republican congressional official asserted Thursday.

The legislation, which would send tax credits of $500 per worker and $1,000 per couple, expressly disqualifies nonresident aliens, but it would allow people who don't have Social Security numbers to be eligible for the checks.

Undocumented immigrants who are not eligible for a Social Security number can file tax returns with an alternative number. A House-passed version of the economic recovery bill and one making its way through the Senate would allow anyone with such a number, called an individual taxpayer identification number, to qualify for the tax credits.

From the revised version of the AP article, headlined, "Stimulus seeks to bar illegals from tax credit":

Illegal immigrants who lack Social Security numbers could not get tax credits under the $800 billion-plus economic stimulus package making its way through Congress.

Two senior GOP congressional officials expressed concern Thursday that the bill could steer government checks to undocumented workers, but in fact the measure indicates that Social Security numbers are needed to claim tax credits of $500 per worker and $1,000 per couple. It also expressly disqualifies nonresident aliens.

The Republicans spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly. But Democrats were quick to reject the notion.

"This legislation is directed toward people who are legal in our country. It is about time the Republicans got a different piece of reading material and get off this illegal immigrant stuff," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. "This bill has nothing to do with anything illegal as far as immigration. It creates jobs for people who are lawfully in this country."

A revolt among GOP conservatives to provisions of last year's economic stimulus bill, which sent rebate checks to most wage earners, forced Democratic congressional leaders to add stricter eligibility requirements. That legislation, enacted in February 2008, required that people have valid Social Security numbers in order to get checks.

The current plan doesn't contain that requirement, but it imposes the same qualifications for the tax credit as are in place for the earned income tax credit, a program for low-income workers that is limited to people with Social Security numbers.

Posted In
Economy, Immigration
Network/Outlet
Associated Press
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