Thursday, May 10, 2012

Illegal immigrants benefiting from billion-dollar tax loophole

Immigration may be among the most divisive topics in U.S. politics today. So when a reporter in Indiana uncovered a billion-dollar tax loophole that allowed illegal immigrants, who may not even be paying taxes, to get a 5-figure dollar amount in tax returns, more questions were raised than answered.

"We found, in many cases, they're getting these tax credits for nieces and nephews and children who aren't even in the United States," explained Bob Segall with WTHR in Indianapolis.

Segall told 97.3 KIRO FM's Dori Monson Show that in order to get the tax credit for dependents, illegal immigrants only need a letter from the school where the child attends, a birth certificate and a child's photo.

It's a loophole that the U.S. Treasury Inspector General has raised questions about since 2005, when the benefits being claimed were only in the millions. Last year, undocumented workers received approximately $4.2 billion from the government.

Why the increase?

The longer the tax credit has been available - the more people are discovering how to use it, and, in some cases abuse it. While you do need proof that there is a child eligible for dependency, they do not have to live in the United States.

Illegal immigrants, many of which are from Mexico - but not all, can provide a letter from a school in Mexico.

Segall said in one case, there were four undocumented workers living in the same mobile home. Between the four of them, they claimed 20 children as dependents, but while investigating the story, only one child was seen living at the home.


Border Patrol shifts strategy as illegal immigration slows

The U.S. Border Patrol, unveiling its first new strategy in eight years on Tuesday, said it aims to become more nimble as illegal immigration plummets.

The new plan calls for increased intelligence gathering, greater cooperation with other law enforcement agencies and quicker deployment to combat the biggest risks, said Border Patrol Chief Michael Fisher.

The change means a shift away from the strategy of deploying a growing army of agents at trouble spots. The number of agents has more than doubled to 21,000 since the last plan in 2004, along with a heavy investment in boats, aircraft, cameras and other equipment.

"The principal theme of the 2012 Strategic Plan is to use information, integration and rapid response to meet all threats," Fisher said in prepared remarks before the House of Representatives' subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security.

The previous plan also focused on organizing the Border Patrol after the September 11, 2001, attacks and melding it into the new Department of Homeland Security, he said.

The more nuanced approach reflects sharply different conditions on the U.S-Mexico border as immigration has slowed.

Arrests on the southwest border last year were down more than 80 percent from the peak year of 2000. Violent crime in the region has fallen by an average of 40 percent over the last 20 years, Fisher said.

The Pew Hispanic Center reported last month that the largest wave of immigration from a single country to the United States had come to a halt and may have reversed.

Fisher said the Border Patrol's main goals included "preventing terrorists and terrorist weapons" from entering the country and to disrupt cross-border criminal gangs.

Republican Representative Candice Miller of Michigan, the subcommittee's chairman, praised the Border Patrol for its "extraordinarily professional job" in protecting the border.

But she also questioned how the new strategy could be shown to be working since it relied on assessing risks rather than such numbers as miles of border controlled or number of arrests.

"The border may be more secure, but by what? How do you measure it?" she said.


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