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Immigration: Path to Citizenship to Be Paved in Debt

Tuesday, 29 Jan 2013 | 4:21 PM ET
Image Source | Getty Images

The immigration reform proposal from the Gang of Eight contains a provision that could require immigrants who want to seek citizenship to pay off any tax liabilities accumulated while working illegally.

There are a variety of reasons this proposal is unrealistic. Most immigrants probably don't owe any back taxes, either because they've already paid them or because their income is too low to owe any taxes. What's more, figuring out a tax-dodging illegal immigrant's past income is a more or less impossible task. It's not like there are extensive records on off-the-books wages.

But let's ignore all this and pretend for a moment that we actually identify illegal immigrants with large tax liabilities. How are they going to pay these off?

It seems unlikely that they would have accumulated enough savings to have the cash on hand.

It's far more likely, I would think, that many immigrants will have to borrow the money that will put them on the path to citizenship. Which is to say, immigration amnesty will give rise to a new financial product: Amnesty Loans.

These would probably have to be structured like student loans, with protections for lenders so that they cannot be extinguished in bankruptcy. I wouldn't be surprised if some sort of government backing developed for these loans.

Our newly legal immigrants will enter above board American life deeply in debt. Which, I guess, is a great way of assimilating them into modern American society.

Follow me on Twitter @Carney

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