In a Senate floor speech Wednesday, Sen. Rand Paul appeared to describe undocumented immigrants as not “legitimate” people while making the case that they should not be given access to federal child tax credits. His office later said he was referring to people who fraudulently claimed a child in order to reap the federal benefit.
Paul was pushing an amendment that proposes several measures to defray the cost of the sweeping responses to the coronavirus. The Kentucky Republican’s idea was to block those without a Social Security number from getting the child tax credit, which he said would save the government $26 billion. “If you want to apply for money from the government through the child tax credit program, then you have to be a legitimate person,” said Paul from the floor. “It has nothing to do with not liking immigrants. It has to do with saying, taxpayer money shouldn’t go to non-people.” Millions of undocumented immigrants live and work in the U.S. without a Social Security number, but most pay some form of taxes. A recent study from New American Economy, an immigration think tank, found undocumented immigrants contributed $13 billion to the Social Security fund in 2016, either through a fake Social Security number or via a special taxpayer category set up by the IRS.
A statement from Paul’s office said that when the senator “spoke of ‘non-people’ he was referring to literally fraudulent practices where individuals claim children that don’t exist or children they don’t have, but their tax credits increase due to this fraudulent practice… this has nothing to do with undocumented immigrants.”