A man with a long history of saying untrue things and making outrageous claims about undocumented immigrants has been nominated by President Donald Trump to a sensitive position dealing with refugees.
The State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration will be led by Ronald Mortensen, a fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), if Trump’s nomination is approved. Last year Mortenson caused an outcry when he said that the so-called “Dreamers” — recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program — should be required to pay restitution for costs incurred by their fraudulent use of Social Security numbers.
Mortensen has been promoting an untrue conspiracy theory for years, saying that there is a link between identity theft and people residing in the United States without proper documentation.
As a fellow at CIS he wrote:
“Democrats often assert as fact that immigrants are less likely to commit crime than U.S. citizens. That argument is totally wrong, because the vast majority of adult illegal aliens are committing felonies by virtue of being active in America. The myth of the law abiding illegal alien is just that: a myth.”
One of Mortensen’s false claims is that undocumented immigrants use false or stolen Social Security numbers to get jobs. The IRS, however, has made clear that this is not true. In fact, it is well known that undocumented immigrants do not use Social Security numbers at all, but they do in fact pay billions of dollars each year in taxes to federal, state and local governments.
Last October Mortensen wrote a CIS paper saying that because these immigrants commit identity theft “Dreamers” should be forced to pay reparations before getting the benefits of the DACA program.
He also said DACA recipients were being granted amnesty for “at least eight” separate offenses, based on the documents they would need to work and pay taxes. This is another claim that is demonstrably untrue but is sure to inflame passions in the debate over immigration in the United States.
According to the Bipartisan Policy Center, the Internal Revenue Service does not allow taxes to be filed with fake or stolen Social Security Numbers. As a result, undocumented immigrants use an Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN) to file their taxes. Most of them pay taxes so if they ever apply for legal status they can prove they have complied with the tax laws.
In a 2015 study it was shown that 4.4 million ITIN holders paid $5.5 billion in payroll taxes, and $23.6 billion in total taxes. Since they will likely never receive Social Security benefits, their existence in the U.S. actually helps provide funding for the Social Security system. By working and spending their money to live, they also pay billions of dollars each year in sales taxes that support local and state governments. This completely proves false the claims from conservatives that illegal immigrants cost the U.S. money.
Under the DACA program people who arrived in the country as minors without legal documentation were given work permits, and they were protected from being deported. If they are accepted into DACA they pay fees and go through a criminal background check every two years in order to renew their DACA status.
If confirmed by the Senate, Mortensen would be in charge of the federal agency that is responsible for giving humanitarian assistance to people displaced by conflicts and disasters.
Immigration advocacy groups have argued that there is no evidence linking identity theft to illegal immigrants. These groups have strongly objected to Mortensen’s past writings and they strongly oppose his nomination to the sensitive refugee post.
Todd Schulte, president of FWD.us, one such immigration advocacy organization, said it was “troubling” that Mortensen would be nominated by Trump after spreading “falsehoods on immigration.”
“The Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration in particular is involved in decisions to protect and ease the suffering of refugees and conflict victims — and, because of this enormous responsibility, people need to examine Mortensen’s incredibly disturbing record very closely,” Schulte said. “His nomination is part of a very deliberate policy agenda by this Administration to radically restrict legal immigration and deter others from immigrating to the United States.”
Although there is a good chance that Mortensen will never be approved for his position by the Senate, the fact that Donald Trump nominated such an extreme candidate tells us all we need to know about his regard for the truth and his desire to do what’s best for America.
I am a lifelong Democrat with a passion for social justice and progressive issues. I have degrees in writing, economics and law from the University of Iowa.