Trump Fundraising Email Falsely Claims Biden’s Immigration Policies Will ‘Destroy’ Social Security

Former President Donald Trump claimed in a fundraising email on Sunday that President Joe Biden “flipped the bird to every senior citizen” because giving legal status to undocumented immigrants will “destroy” Social Security.

“Biden’s Border BLOODBATH is bringing crime. It’s bringing VIOLENCE. But the next target? YOUR SOCIAL SECURITY!” the email reads. “Friend, the Democrat push to give MASS AMNESTY to millions of illegals will DESTROY Social Security.”

The message, from Trump’s campaign committee and the Republican National Committee, offers a misleading impression about how immigration affects Social Security. Undocumented immigrants are not eligible to receive Social Security retirement benefits, but many nevertheless pay into the Social Security system through payroll deductions.

“It’s misdirection and fearmongering to take people’s eye off the fact that Trump and his billionaires are the ones plotting to destroy Social Security, day and night,” said Alex Lawson, executive director of the progressive group Social Security Works.

In a break with his GOP predecessors, Donald Trump has stated his opposition to Social Security and Medicare cuts. But as president, he went after Social Security disability benefits.
In a break with his GOP predecessors, Donald Trump has stated his opposition to Social Security and Medicare cuts. But as president, he went after Social Security disability benefits.

Megan Briggs/Getty Images

The data clearly shows that undocumented immigrants are beneficial to Social Security’s finances, rather than harmful. In 2010, 3.1 million undocumented immigrants contributed $13 billion in payroll taxes to Social Security without the opportunity to claim benefits, according to a 2013 estimate by Stephen Goss, the chief actuary of the Social Security Administration.

Even plans to provide undocumented immigrants a pathway to citizenship as part of comprehensive immigration reform are projected to have an ameliorative effect on Social Security’s finances. The bipartisan, comprehensive immigration reform bill of 2013, for example, which tied so-called amnesty to stricter border enforcement and increased legal immigration, would have extended Social Security’s solvency by two years.

The reason immigrants have a positive impact on the program, even when they are legally entitled to collect benefits, is because they skew younger and are more likely to be employed, even as compared to their young native-born peers.

“The cost rate [of Social Security] decreases with an increase in total net immigration because immigration occurs at relatively young ages, thereby increasing the numbers of covered workers earlier than the numbers of beneficiaries,” Social Security’s trustees wrote in their 2023 annual report, which estimates that a net increase of 100,000 legal immigrants per year would provide a modest but notable boost to the program’s finances.

Social Security’s retirement program faces a long-term funding shortfall, with trust fund reserves and projected payroll tax revenue sufficient to cover all benefits until 2034, at which point the reserves are expected to run dry and incoming revenue will cover only 77% of promised benefits. To close that funding gap, Republicans have generally favored spending cuts, such as raising eligibility ages, while Democrats focus on increasing revenue.

Biden’s fiscal 2025 budget includes a broadly worded proposal to require higher earners to pay into Social Security on all of their earnings. Currently, Americans pay into Social Security on the first $168,600 of their earnings, but also do not receive benefits tied to their pay above that level.

Since his political ascent in 2016, Trump has differed from other Republicans by professing his opposition to direct benefit cuts to the two popular social insurance programs.

During the 2024 Republican presidential primary, he specifically attacked former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley for embracing cuts to Social Security, including an increase in the retirement age.

“Haley said she wants to raise the Social Security retirement age to match life expectancy, which means that she wants it to go up to about 77. Is everybody happy with that?” he said at a New Hampshire rally in late January. “It’s not going to happen with us.”

But as president, Trump did go after Social Security’s more politically vulnerable disability benefits program. In 2020, Trump tried to increase the number of benefits reviews that would throw more beneficiaries out of the program, and instituted a rule banning benefits for people whose disabilities limit them to part-time work but do not prevent them from working altogether.

“These were unprecedented attacks on Social Security,” Lawson said.

Trump has even suggested that he agrees with more conventional Republican colleagues about the need to cut Social Security benefits, but that he sees it as politically unwise.

“There is a lot you can do in terms of entitlements, in terms of cutting, and in terms of also the theft and the bad management of entitlements, tremendous bad management of entitlements,” Trump said on CNBC in March. The Biden campaign has hammered Trump for the comment.

The remarks echoed something Trump told CNBC in January 2020, when he said of Social Security and Medicare cuts: “At the right time, we will take a look at that.”

As for “mass amnesty,” Biden has previously supported creating a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants living in the U.S., but more recently he endorsed an immigration reform and border security bill that omitted such a pathway.

If Congress were to immediately allow 10 million undocumented immigrants to become citizens, and therefore eligible for Social Security retirement benefits ― something Biden has not proposed ― the policy change would be a net drain on the program’s finances, according to the Center for Immigration Studies, a think tank that opposes high levels of immigration.

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