Trump refugee nominee demanded reparations from DACA recipients

Greg Nash

President Trump’s nominee to head the State Department’s office for refugees wrote last year that recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program should pay restitution to Americans for illicit use of Social Security numbers.

Ronald Mortensen, a fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) and former foreign service officer, was tapped by Trump last week to head the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration.

At CIS, Mortensen promoted a link between immigrants living in the country illegally and identity theft.

{mosads}“Democrats often assert as fact that immigrants are less likely to commit crime than U.S. citizens,” he wrote in a 2017 op-ed for The Hill while a CIS fellow.

“That argument is totally wrong, because the vast majority of adult illegal aliens are committing felonies by virtue of being active in America,” he wrote. “The myth of the law abiding illegal alien is just that: a myth.”

Mortensen has argued that most immigrants who lack legal status use false or stolen Social Security numbers to obtain employment. In October, he wrote that DACA recipients should pay reparations to American victims of identity theft in order to receive the program’s benefits. 

He also wrote that 43.9 percent of DACA recipients worked illegally before obtaining their permit through DACA, citing a survey by the Center for American Progress, a progressive think tank.

In that article, he said DACA recipients were being granted amnesty for “at least eight” separate offenses, based on the documents they would need to work and pay taxes.

Mortensen did not respond to a request for comment made through CIS.

If confirmed to the refugee position by the Senate, Mortensen would head the agency tasked with humanitarian assistance to people displaced by conflict and other natural or man-made disasters. This would include asylum seekers from Mexico and Central America.

Groups that back immigration reform argue there is no evidence to link widespread identity theft to immigrants in the U.S. illegally. They have expressed outrage with Mortensen’s past writings and his nomination.

Todd Schulte, president of, a Facebook-funded immigration advocacy organization, called it “troubling” that Mortensen would be nominated to a position after spreading “falsehoods on immigration.”

“The Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration in particular is involved in decisions to protect and ease the suffering of refugees and conflict victims — and, because of this enormous responsibility, people need to examine Mortensen’s incredibly disturbing record very closely,” he said. “His nomination is part of a very deliberate policy agenda by this Administration to radically restrict legal immigration and deter others from immigrating to the United States.”

Many immigrants who lack legal status who earn income in the United States do pay taxes, according to IRS figures.

According to the Bipartisan Policy Center, the IRS will not allow taxes to be filed with a fake or stolen Social Security number, so many immigrants will instead rely on what’s known as an Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN) to file taxes.

According to a 2015 National Taxpayer Advocate report, 4.4 million ITIN holders paid $5.5 billion in payroll taxes, and $23.6 billion in total taxes.

Although not all ITIN holders lack legal status, a large majority of recent applicants do live in the United States, according to the report. That means they are ineligible for a Social Security number, raising the presumption that they could be here illegally.

Many of these immigrants stay up-to-date with their taxes in the hopes of proving they comply with the law should an opportunity to apply for legal status ever arise, according to the Bipartisan Policy Center.

Under DACA, certain immigrants who arrived in the country illegally as minors were given work permits and protection from deportation. Recipients pay a fee and go through a criminal background check every two years as they renew their status.

Mortensen may face a difficult confirmation vote given the GOP’s narrow 51-49 margin in the Senate, especially with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) absent from Washington.

One Republican, Sen. Jeff Flake (Ariz.), has already written off Mortensen. 

“This nominee will not have my support,” Flake tweeted on Wednesday

Tags DACA Donald Trump Immigration Jeff Flake John McCain

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