On his radio program, The Gunny Bob Show, host “Gunny” Bob Newman misleadingly claimed Democratic 7th District congressional candidate Ed Perlmutter is “in favor of Social Security for illegal aliens.” In fact, Perlmutter does not support providing Social Security benefits to illegal immigrants.
On the October 26 broadcast of Newsradio 850 KOA's The Gunny Bob Show, host “Gunny” Bob Newman misleadingly claimed that the Democratic candidate for Colorado's 7th Congressional District, Ed Perlmutter, is “in favor of Social Security for illegal aliens.” Although Perlmutter's Republican opponent, Rick O'Donnell, made a similar allegation in a campaign ad titled “Amnesty,” a Denver Post analysis of that ad found that “Perlmutter ... does not support extending Social Security benefits to illegal immigrants but does believe that once those immigrants become citizens, they should be allowed to receive those benefits.”
As the Post noted in its October 2 “Ad Watch” analysis of the O'Donnell ad, “Perlmutter has said he supports the 'broad principles' of a bill that passed in the U.S. Senate but has not passed the U.S. House of Representatives.” The Post reported that bill, the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006 (S. 2611), would open a “path to citizenship for illegal immigrants now in the country who have broken no law other than working here illegally.”
In an October 10 report, Annenberg Political Fact Check, a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, cited several instances in which Republican ads made similar claims about Democrats who supported the Senate immigration bill. In an item dealing with related claims, Media Matters for America noted that Fox News falsely claimed California Democratic congressional candidate Francine Busby “endorses providing both of these benefits [Social Security and earned income tax credit] to illegals.”
As Media Matters noted, the misrepresentation of Democrats' position on illegal immigrants' eligibility for Social Security benefits appears to stem from the defeat of an amendment (S.A. 3985), proposed by Sen. John Ensign (R-NV), to the Senate immigration bill on May 18. As Ensign noted in announcing his amendment, “Under current law, an individual who has entered this country illegally and worked for a number of years can, after obtaining legal status, apply for and receive Social Security benefits relating to the work done while that person was in the country illegally.”
Ensign's amendment, which failed on a procedural vote, would have denied immigrants currently working illegally in the United States who later became eligible for Social Security (as citizens or legal residents), any credit for Social Security taxes they paid while working illegally. For example, a person who enters the country on a work-eligible temporary visa can legally obtain a Social Security number (SSN). If the worker overstays that visa, a non-verifying employer can still file Social Security taxes using the worker's previously-issued SSN. If the unauthorized worker later becomes a U.S. citizen under the “path to citizenship” provisions of the Senate bill, that person could count all the time he or she had worked and paid Social Security taxes, including during the time the worker was in the United States illegally. Under Ensign's proposal, however, the newly legalized worker would have received no credit for contributions made to Social Security while working illegally.
During the floor debate on Ensign's amendment, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), one of the Senate bill's authors, noted that the Senate bill -- without Ensign's amendment -- does not change the current ban on unauthorized immigrants receiving Social Security benefits:
McCAIN: Mr. President, I rise in strong opposition to the Ensign amendment. Under current law, undocumented immigrants are ineligible for Social Security benefits which I think is entirely appropriate. But we all know that millions of undocumented immigrants pay Social Security and Medicare taxes for years and sometimes decades while they work to contribute to our economy.
The Ensign amendment would undermine the work of these people by preventing lawfully present immigrant workers from claiming Social Security benefits that they earned before they were authorized to work in our country. If this amendment is enacted, the nest egg that these immigrants have worked hard for would be taken from them and their families.
From the October 26 broadcast of Newsradio 850 KOA's The Gunny Bob Show:
NEWMAN: The 7th District congressional candidate, Ed Perlmutter -- you've seen all the ads, right here in Colorado, very liberal Democrat -- is in favor of amnesty for illegal aliens, in favor of in-state tuition for illegal aliens, in favor of Social Security for illegal aliens, in favor of welfare for illegal aliens. Now Perlmutter has counter-attacked his opponent, Rick O'Donnell, by saying that Rick O'Donnell is a kook with dangerous, weird ideas. As if doing everything within your power to help illegal aliens is not a dangerous and weird idea. For those of you in his district -- you're in the 7th District -- which candidate down there, Perlmutter or O'Donnell, appeals to you? And has either crossed the line in advertising?