Senate GOP worried tax credits in jobs bill could flow to illegal immigrants

Senate Republicans are concerned that the jobs bill set for a preliminary vote Monday could fund tax credits for employers to hire illegal immigrants.

The GOP expressed worries that the $15 billion jobs package crafted by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), does not go far enough to ensure that businesses don't use new-jobs tax credits in the bill to write off jobs given to illegal immigrants.

Democrats said the complaint was little more than an excuse by Republicans to not support the bill, and argued that existing laws already bar employers from hiring illegal immigrants.

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At issue are the tax credits in the Reid bill that would let businesses claim a $1,000 deduction for each worker they hire who had been previously unemployed.

Republicans echoed claims raised by the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), an anti-immigration group, that employers could use the credit to hire illegal immigrants as workers because the jobs bill does not specifically require that an employee be a legal resident or citizen, nor does it require using the E-Verify background check system.

A Senate Republican aide said that the GOP would want to tighten up the language if given the opportunity to amend the jobs bill, pointing to a similar fracas over the tax rebate bill just over a year ago.

A Senate Democratic aide said that the language in the Reid bill is the exact same as the language first introduced by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) in the tax rebate bill he authored with Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.).

Democrats also argued that laws are already on the books barring employers from hiring unauthorized workers, as well as laws to ensure undocumented or illegal immigrants can't take advantage of similar tax credits.

The back-and-forth comes before a cloture motion on the jobs bill later Monday afternoon. While Reid has expressed hope that the package he crafted would win bipartisan support, it's unclear whether Republicans will join the effort. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Sunday that many Republicans "may well" back the package, though many GOP senators have been coy about committing to the package.

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