Former foreign service officer and fellow at the anti-immigrant Center for Immigration Studies Ronald Mortensen has some abhorrent views about immigrants: He believes that, by the simple fact of being in the United States, undocumented immigrants are “committing felonies” and argues that recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals—who were brought to this country as children—owe “restitution” to citizens for “identity theft.” Naturally, Donald Trump has nominated this man to run the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, where he’d be in charge of humanitarian aid and outreach for asylum seekers escaping war, famine, and other disasters.
Rather than addressing a broken immigration system that forces undocumented immigrants to live precariously and without basic rights, Mortensen proposed the following in a blog post from 2017, excerpts of which were recirculated by the Hill (a publication that also had no problem publishing his other racist op-eds):
Now that President Trump has terminated the Obama administration’s DACA program, any new program passed by Congress must require all recipients to disclose the Social Security number(s) they used for pre-DACA employment or other purposes. Furthermore, DACA recipients must be required to make restitution to the owners of those Social Security numbers as a condition of adjusting their immigration status and in return for amnesty from identity theft and other job-related felonies.
While some undocumented immigrants may use fake or expired Social Security numbers to obtain work, the debt actually goes the other way: The country owes them. Here’s how that works, from a 2016 piece in the Atlantic on undocumented immigrants and taxes (emphasis mine):
Stephen Goss, the chief actuary of the Social Security Administration, estimates that about 1.8 million immigrants were working with fake or stolen Social Security cards in 2010, and he expects that number to reach 3.4 million by 2040. He calculates that undocumented immigrants paid $13 billion into the retirement trust fund that year, and only got about $1 billion in benefits. “We estimate that earnings by unauthorized immigrants result in a net positive effect on Social Security financial status generally, and that this effect contributed roughly $12 billion to the cash flow of the program for 2010,” Gross concluded in a 2013 review of the impact of undocumented immigrants on Social Security.
Mortensen’s argument dangerously misrepresents the link between undocumented immigrants and identity theft, ignores their financial contributions, and deprives them of basic humanity, which is no doubt why the Trump administration likes him so much.
Mortensen now awaits confirmation by the Senate.