What: All Issues : Aid to Less Advantaged People, at Home & Abroad : Immigrants : S 1348. (Immigration overhaul) Sessions of Alabama amendment that would clarify that illegal immigrants may not qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit/On agreeing to the amendment (2007 senate Roll Call 192)
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S 1348. (Immigration overhaul) Sessions of Alabama amendment that would clarify that illegal immigrants may not qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit/On agreeing to the amendment
senate Roll Call 192     Jun 06, 2007
Progressive Position:
Nay
Progressive Result:
Loss

This vote was on an amendment offered by Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., that would prohibit holders of new visas established by the underlying bill from claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). The EITC is a tax credit that reduces or in some cases eliminates payroll taxes for low-income working Americans. According to the Congressional Research Service, the EITC is the largest federal anti-poverty entitlement program.

The amendment was offered to a bill intended to overhaul America's immigration system. Among other things, the bill establishes several new temporary and permanent visas in an effort to encourage the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants living in the United States to legitimize their residency.

Sessions said that an enormous number of people would have their residency legitimized by the underlying bill's new visas, and that a large portion would probably qualify for the EITC. He said according to the Congressional Budget Office, the single largest expense generated by the underlying bill would be in EITC claims for newly-legal workers.

"I really think we should give thought to that and ask ourselves what right does somebody who came into our country illegally, who has been here maybe for a number of years, expect to receive this benefit, where we say: OK, we are just going to give up; we are not going to make you go home; we will let you stay; you can have amnesty. By the way, you start receiving the earned-income tax credit of $2,000. How much sense does that make? I don't think that is good public policy," Sessions said.

Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., opposed the amendment, saying it would unfairly harm families with children, which the EITC was created to support. Kennedy said that the EITC is not denied to murderers, burglars, child molesters or any other citizen who meets the means test for poverty, and that it should not be denied to legal immigrant workers either, many of whom have children who are American citizens.

"I find it difficult to understand, when we are talking about individuals who are working, who want to work, will work, are trying to make a better future for themselves and their families and particularly for their children, why they should be the only class of working people in the United States who ought to be penalized. That is what the Sessions amendment would do. That is wrong and it is not fair and it should not be accepted," Kennedy said.

By a vote of 56-41, the Senate adopted Sessions' amendment. Most Republicans voted for the amendment, though six did not. The Democratic caucus was more fractured, with 33 voting against the amendment (including the most progressive members of the Senate), and 14 voting for it. Thus, the bill went forward with language prohibiting those who hold visas granted under the bill from claiming the EITC.

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