In a much-lauded act of bipartisanship, Congress sent a $622 billion tax extender bill to the President's desk last week. A long-awaited end to this years' tax policy brinksmanship, the bill extends 52 expiring tax breaks either temporarily or permanently. While the bill provides hundreds of billions in corporate tax breaks and, on a smaller scale, much-needed relief for low and moderate income workers, millions of hardworking immigrant taxpayers have been left out in the cold.
Among the permanent extensions include two anti-poverty tax credits that make real and significant differences for working Americans, including millions of Latino families. The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit (CTC) give money back to working families with children, and were expanded to help those hit by the Great Recession of 2008. However, Congress has structured them in a way that unfairly bars immigrants and their children from receiving these critical tax credits, while providing tax breaks for such needy groups as Hollywood film studios and racehorse owners.
Millions of tax-paying immigrants with new Social Security Numbers would be restricted from receiving the tax credits. Those trying to file with an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number would run into additional barriers and would not be able to claim the credit for years they did not have a number. Amongst all the talk in Washington about the necessities for a simpler, cleaner tax code, language has been written into this deal to make it more complicated and harder to access for immigrants.
This is not the first time conservatives in Congress have tried to use these essential tax credits as a political weapon in their anti-immigrant crusade. When President Obama announced policies last year that would help keep immigrant families together and ensure that children of immigrants could pursue the American Dream, Conservatives tried to cut both credits out of last year's tax extenders bill entirely, calling it payback for the President's action, voicing concerns that newly legalized Americans would be the ones taking advantage of it.
The EITC and the CTC are not abstract political pawns to be played by wealthy men and women in Congress. They are real difference makers in the lives of Latino families everywhere. Nearly half of all working Latinos live below the poverty line, and 4.5 million children, who are American citizens by birth, stand to lose this crucial tax credit if their parents are barred access to it. And all this while Big Business sees the larger share of tax cuts, estimated by Vox.com as about 60% of the total deal.
Republicans and Democrats alike are responsible for giving breaks to those that need it the least. Special provisions like this abound in the lengthy bill. Businesses that donate money can count on their friends in Congress to stand up for them when it comes time to negotiate. But whom can poor, working-class Latino families count on to stand up for them? Latinos may not wield the power of the purse that Big Business does, but they have one powerful tool at their disposal: the ballot box. Hard-working families, no matter where they come from, shouldn't have to struggle to make ends meet while Big Business counts its billions.