Many Americans probably found themselves sitting at Thanksgiving dinner this year, trapped in a “discussion” about President Obama’s latest stance on immigration. In a move that angered Republicans (and quite a few Democrats) across the country, Obama recently issued an executive order — going against the wishes of Congress — to pardon and protect approximately five million immigrants who are currently living in the U.S. illegally.
The news garnered outrage, partly because of Obama’s brazen disregard for the rest of Washington, and partly because people started realizing that millions of illegal immigrants will soon become eligible for federally-funded programs like Social Security and Medicare — i.e., the very programs that numerous American citizens are already being denied.
It’s no secret that America’s immigration system is broken, with an estimated 11 million immigrants living illegally within U.S. borders currently. Obama’s proposal would offer citizenship to nearly half of this group, and certain benefits that accompany American citizenship would also be available.
Programs like student financial aid and food stamps, the Washington Post notes, will not become available to the new citizens. But by extending eligibility to Social Security and Medicare alone — not even considering other federally funded programs — Obama could be putting the entire U.S. economy in jeopardy.
Both programs are already incredibly unstable, even with millions of illegal immigrants paying the taxes that fund the programs without being able to receive program benefits, and even with strict rules set by the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) that determine which American citizens aren’t eligible to participate in these programs at all. Many exclusions result from attempted fraud of federal programs, but even defaulting on a student loan can render a working American citizen ineligible for Medicare, and can severely limit that person’s employment options.
As more Americans start to worry that they’ll be excluded from federal programs in the near future, it’s hard not to wonder if allowing five million additional people into these programs is a good idea. Even if Americans believe that Obama’s decision is a good one (from a moral standpoint), neither Social Security nor Medicare seem stable enough right now to accommodate five million sudden participants.
Plenty of stipulations are expected to accompany American citizenship, and these immigrants will have paid years worth of taxes in order to become eligible for federal programs. But right now, that doesn’t seem very comforting to millions of hardworking American citizens.