One of the many faults of our immigration system is the inequitable way that two different classes of alien workers interact with our Social Security system.
The more privileged of the two work forces I have in mind are aliens who are here legally and have recently graduated from an American college or university; this is a relatively small group that can work — legally — just about anywhere in the U.S. without fear of deportation. They do so under the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program. There are probably a quarter of a million of them.
The less privileged, and much larger group, consists of illegal aliens, people who usually do not have a college degree, whose very employment is against the law, and who are subject to, theoretically at least, deportation. The illegal aliens number in excess of 10 million.
So how do the two groups relate to the financing of our social system, which is due to reduce benefit levels to 75 percent of the current ones a dozen years from now if the levels of benefits and Social Security taxes remain at current levels?
The employers of the smaller — and much better paid — of these two groups, and many of the OPT workers themselves, do not have to pay into the Social Security, Medicare, and federal unemployment insurance trust funds. Were these jobs held by citizen workers, they and their employers would pay the usual payroll taxes. (The OPT program defines these alumni workers as students, thus protecting them and their employers from the usual deductions.)
Meanwhile, many of the less-well-paid illegal aliens, usually using ill-gotten Social Security numbers, and their employers are paying into all the trust funds, and since illegals still in illegal status cannot claim benefits from these programs, the illegals and their employers are helping those programs stay afloat.
So a low-income group of aliens, and their often struggling employers, are being helpful to the nation’s social net, while a higher-paid group of aliens and their generally prosperous employers are not.
Them that has, gets.
This is the first of a series of posts on aliens and Social Security.