Immigrant rights advocates warned Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., that her amendment to offset an extension of unemployment insurance by eliminating child tax credits filed by undocumented workers would come back to haunt her if she seeks higher office.
“A senator, like Sen. Ayotte, who is looking at the future ... even the proposal of this amendment is going to follow her everywhere,” said Lia Parada, legislative director for America’s Voice.
Parada pointed to Mitt Romney, the Republican nominee who lost the 2012 presidential election, and language he used in the GOP primary backing the idea of making the United States so inhospitable to illegal immigrants that they would self-deport. The move hurt Romney in the general election in competitive states with large Latino voters.
“Latino voters flatly rejected Mitt Romney’s self-deportation tragedy,” Parada said, adding that “any time Ayotte is mentioned and Latino voters brought up, this will follow her everywhere and will be damaging.”
Ayotte was in the mix to be the vice presidential candidate on the Romney ticket and has been mentioned as someone who could be on the ticket in 2016.
The junior New Hampshire senator dismissed the threat and was quick to point out that she voted for the Senate immigration overhaul.
She noted that she still wants to find a solution to the immigration issue, but she also wants to close what she argues is a loophole that has been abused.
“As someone who was one of the Republicans who supported the immigration reform, this is an appropriate fix of a tax refund that has been abused within our tax code,” Ayotte said.
She cited a 2011 Treasury Inspector General report finding billions in refundable tax credits going to people not qualified to receive them. The report recommended congressional action addressing the matter.
Her proposal would repeal and replace the $6.3 billion in military retiree benefits cuts and pay for a three-month extension of unemployment benefits by stopping a “scheme” that currently allows illegal immigrants to claim the Additional Child Tax Credit that she argued currently costs taxpayers billions.
The amendment would require that those that claim the benefit have Social Security numbers, cutting out people who pay their taxes using Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers — including illegal immigrants who are parents to U.S. citizens.
Parada said that Ayotte’s amendment is the latest in a record the GOP is building on the immigration issue and it is contrary to a Republican National Committee effort, following the 2012 election, to try to reach out to the Hispanic community.
The Ayotte amendment comes after the House passed an amendment offered by Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, that would prohibit implementation of a White House 2012 order protecting from deportation young undocumented immigrants who were brought to the country as children, provided they met certain requirements, akin to the Dream Act legislation long sought by the Obama administration.
“This [Ayotte] amendment is incredibly damaging to the Republican brand,” Parada said. “First in the House we saw the Steve King amendment come up for a vote to deport Dreamers ... now we have the Ayotte amendment that attacks working families and immigrant children.
“The tally is adding up,” Parada said.
The issue has also been taken up by Hispanic media, which has covered the amendment intensely. For example, Fernando Espuelas, who has a nationally broadcast radio talk show on Univision, wrote Sunday in the Huffington Post about the amendment, arguing that it would hurt the children of immigrants, many whom are American citizens.
“The idea that you would inflate taxes for millions of poor kids living on the margins in order to pay for unemployment insurance for laid-off workers sent out in the cold by Republican ideological intransigence is nothing short of an immoral act by a political party being slowly strangled by far-right radicals hell-bent on destroying the American social contract,” Espuelas wrote.
Parada said that there “are more than 4 million children in the U.S. that are children of undocumented immigrants — what is she going to say to them? It's not just broad tax policy; it affects real working people. These children will be voters, and they are paying attention; they are as engaged as anyone.”
But other Republicans don’t agree that it would harm Ayotte, including Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who helped draft the Senate immigration bill.
“I’m not sure it’s that huge a deal,” McCain said, when asked if the amendment would follow Ayotte should she seek higher office.
“I am not particularly excited about the offset, but I’ll vote for it,” he said.
Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., who is chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, also said that it would not be a problem.
“That’s just common sense that you would expect the benefits to accrue to people who are legally in the United States,” Moran said.