Immigrants and the child tax credit—the refundable credit enacted by Congress in 1998 to keep children from falling into poverty—are back in the news again. This time the claims being leveled are even more hyperbolic and misleading than before. Sens. David Vitter (R-LA) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) recently introduced separate legislation seeking to limit eligibility for the tax credit and are actively politicizing the issue while pushing for a Senate vote. The bills purportedly aim to block undocumented individuals from receiving a child tax credit.
These two legislators have justified the renewed attack on this refundable credit based in part on the representation of a lone tax preparer—a self-proclaimed whistleblower—who claims fraud is rampant in the program. Wittingly, or most likely not, the story told by this purported whistleblower is also an admission that he himself committed obvious and blatant tax fraud—a felony punishable by up to three years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Given the tax preparer’s claims of programmatic abuse and given his own admission of fraud, one would assume these senators would be focused on rooting it out. Yet neither bill tackles the question of fraud or abuse in the program.
Instead, Vitter and Rubio have pulled a classic bait and switch. They have used concerns about abuse (concerns that they have helped sensationalize) to justify another agenda entirely: drastically restricting eligibility to millions of children in low-income families.
Let’s be clear. The central talking point being used to justify these bills is that billions of dollars in tax credits are being unlawfully claimed by undocumented tax filers. As Marshall Fitz and Sarah Jane Glynn describe in debunking the top four myths about immigrants and the child tax credit, that argument is patently and demonstrably false.
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