By Zenen Jaimes Perez
February 12, 2014
Caption : Over the past two months, lawmakers have debated reinstating cuts to military retirement benefits. In doing so, they have also targeted undocumented families and could leave millions of young people in poverty.     

Over the past two months, lawmakers have debated reinstating cuts to military retirement benefits. In doing so, they have also targeted undocumented families and could leave millions of young people in poverty.

A proposal introduced by Senator Kelly Ayotte (R – NH) last week would deny the refundable portion of the Child Tax Credit, known as the Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC), to children who lack a Social Security number, the majority of whom live in low-income immigrant families.

Currently, parents may file their taxes using their Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) and receive refunds of up to $1,000 for each child. Ayotte’s Honor Our Promise Act (S. 1977) would require that filers claiming the ACTC include a valid Social Security Number (SSN) for each child they are claiming.

A similar proposal by Ayotte in January would have required a valid SSN by the filer, not the child, and could have thrown millions of U.S. citizens with undocumented parents into poverty. The planned amendment fell through as a Senate vote on extending unemployment insurance continued to face delays.

The current proposal would help restore some of the $6 billion in funding for military pensions that Congress agreed to cut by slowing down cost of living adjustments for working age military retirees.

Our elected leaders must work to restore cuts to the military pensions. However, restricting families from the child tax credit to pay for military benefits could harm up to 1 million young DREAMers who are growing up in the U.S. and have a path to citizenship under the Senate’s S.744 immigration bill, which Senator Ayotte supported, as well as under the House Republicans’ principles for immigration reform.

Created in 1997, the Child Tax Credit has helped keep millions of young families out of poverty. The program has expanded since 2001 with wide bipartisan support. Any restrictions to the credit would push families into poverty at a time when child poverty has reached a 20-year high.

Undocumented children will be hit the hardest.

Currently, the children of immigrants comprise 30 percent of all low-income families and the average family using an ITIN to file taxes earns $21,000 a year. Additionally, low-income families spend the highest percentage of their income directly on their children’s needs.

Denying the child tax credit amounts to taking an average of $1,800 out of the paycheck of families with undocumented children who already suffer from disproportionately high levels of poverty.

Congress cannot continue to try and solve one problem by making another worse.

Military veterans and undocumented families face disproportionately high impacts from poverty. Lawmakers should consider raising revenue through progressive, simple, and efficient tax reform.

Over the last several decades, less tax revenue has been collected from those at the top of the income brackets. Raising revenue would allow lawmakers to avoid targeting those at the margins of our society.

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