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Inhofe Announces Plan To Fund Border Wall Ahead Of Midterms

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Caroline Halter/KGOU
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A screenshot of Sen. Inhofe's press conference livestreamed by KOCO on Nov. 1, 2018.

Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-OK, is not up for reelection this year, but he visited Tulsa on Nov. 1 to talk about an issue that has resurfaced in the weeks leading up to the 2018 midterm election: immigration. Speaking at a press conference,Inhofe announced his plan to fund a wall along the U.S. Mexico border by eliminating public benefits for immigrants without work-authorized Social Security numbers.

 

“The state is going to be forced to verify that the individuals receiving benefits are, in fact, citizens,” Inhofe, a Republican, said during a press conference in Tulsa.

 

Inhofe's WALL Act targets benefitslike the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit (CTC), and he says it would generate the estimated $25 billion dollars needed to build a 1,200 mile wall covering most of the country's southern border. His office cited a 2016 Congressional Budget Office report projecting that requiring EITC and CTC claimants to have a work-authorized Social Security number would save $37 billion over 10 years.

 

An Inhofe spokesperson said his plan would not impact immigrants in the country legally, but The WALL Act would seemingly affect some with legal status, including U.S. citizens. According to the American Immigration Council, over 4 million children who are U.S. citizens benefit from the CTC through parents with an ITIN. Furthermore, The U.S. Department of Homeland Security issues non-work Social Security numbers to some who have been "lawfully admitted" to the United States and have "a valid non-work reason for needing a Social Security number; or need a number because of a federal law requiring a Social Security number to get a benefit or service." Unlike the CTC, the EITC does require an Social Security number, but the program does not specify work authorization. 

 

Inhofe said he believes the measure could pass if Republicans retain majorities in Congress, but the measure would require cooperation from all fifty states in order to work and some would likely push back. California, which has one of the nation's largest immigrant communities, has already resisted federal immigration enforcement. Inhofe plans to file the bill when the Senate reconvenes.

Caroline produced Capitol Insider and did general assignment reporting from 2018 to 2019. She joined KGOU after a stint at Marfa Public Radio, where she covered a wide range of local and regional issues in far west Texas. Previously, she reported on state politics for KTOO Public Media in Alaska and various outlets in Washington State.
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