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Saturday, January 17, 2015

Government Benefits and the Legalization of Unauthorized Immigrants

Granting legal status to some or all of the noncitizens living in the country without authorization would affect their tax liability, their eligibility for federal benefits, and the amount of benefits they received. Those effects would depend critically on the specific provisions of the legislation, which would determine when and how those newly authorized residents became eligible for federal benefits. Over time, such changes in status might increase spending for a variety of federal benefits, including those provided by health care programs for low-income people (specifically, Medicaid, CHIP, and subsidies for the purchase of health insurance through the exchanges established by the ACA), SNAP, Social Security, Medicare, and refundable tax credits. Several other federal programs, such as SSI, Pell grants, and unemployment insurance also could experience spending increases. In addition, legalization policies might result in increased tax revenues, stemming mostly from taxes on higher wages that workers may earn as a result of attaining legal status and taxes from increased reporting of employment income by workers who are currently not paying taxes.