An undocumented retiree of 65 years old recently visited my office. He had worked his entire adult life in the United States. When he first arrived here he applied for political asylum and was given a work permit and valid social security number. Unfortunately his asylum was denied however he remained in the United States working and paying social security tax with a valid social security number for over 40 years. Can he collect his social security retirement? No he can’t because now he’s undocumented.
Social Security retirement is available to non-citizens in the following categories:
- Are permanent legal residents.
- Have visas that allow them to work in the United States.
- Were allowed in the country under the Family Unity or Immediate Relative provisions of U.S. immigration law.
Undocumented immigrants pay billions of dollars a year into the Social Security system according to a Social Security report, but they rarely receive any benefits. Most of the money ends up in the trust funds from which Social Security benefits are paid.
These payments are made by folks who often use lapsed social security numbers, made up numbers or legitimate numbers. The individual I met with was using a legitimate number issued to him.
In theory some or all of these benefits might be available if he left the United States and is a citizen of country with which the United States has a Social Security agreement. This is really of no use to most undocumented workers as they are from countries that don’t have such an agreement. Social Security agreement;
Is it right to now deny him a benefit that he paid into the system because he’s undocumented? In a country that relies heavily on cheap immigrant labor? Is it fair? Is it an extremely harsh penalty not to mention a money grab by an over burdened social security system? I’d say so.