House Republicans oppose tax credit for kids because it might help immigrant families

Tom Tiffany

The U.S. House of Representatives voted 357-70 on Jan. 31 to approve a bipartisan compromise tax package containing an expansion of the child tax credit. Many of the 47 Republicans who voted against the bill misleadingly claimed that it would give tax credits to undocumented immigrants.

The Tax Relief for American Families and Workers Act of 2024, coauthored by Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden (D-OR) and House Ways and Means Committee Chair Jason Smith (R-MO), would also enhance tax credits for low-income housing and extend business tax incentives for research and development. 

The child tax credit was expanded for one year as part of President Joe Biden’s 2021 American Rescue Plan, helping to lift 2.9 million children out of poverty, according to an analysis by the Economic Policy Institute. Biden has been pushing to restore those credits since they expired at the end of  2021. If signed into law, the tax package will again gradually increase the credit for the tax years 2023 through 2025.

In a Jan. 26 press release, Smith corrected claims by some of his GOP colleagues that the bill would expand payments for noncitizens, noting that it “maintains all of the safeguards made to the Child Tax Credit (CTC) in its 25-year lifespan, including a social security number (SSN) requirement established by Republicans in the 2017 GOP tax law.” 

The tax credit is provided to parents for their children and is only available for kids who are U.S. citizens, U.S. nationals, or U.S. resident aliens.

But anti-immigrant hate groups like the Center for Immigration Studies have repeatedly framed that credit as taxpayer dollars “going to illegal immigrants,” and their allies in Congress continue to echo those claims.

Wisconsin Republican Rep. Tom Tiffany was among the most vocal opponents of the package. “Illegal aliens should NOT be cashing in on child tax credit payments,” he tweeted on Jan. 30. “Our tax code should NOT reward and encourage illegal immigration. This loophole needs to be closed.”

“The ‘tax’ bill that passed last night will stifle work, expand welfare, and even allow illegal aliens to cash in on the Child Tax Credit,” he wrote on Feb. 1. “No Republican should have voted for it.”

According to an analysis by the Democratic staff of the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee, the child tax credit expansion will benefit about 28,000 children in Tiffany’s 7th Congressional District and 224,000 kids statewide.

According to an analysis by the Democratic staff of the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee, the child tax credit expansion will benefit about 25,000 children in Rosendale’s 2nd Congressional District and 46,000 kids statewide.

Twenty-three House Democrats also voted against the package, with many expressing concerns about the business tax credits and work requirements for the child tax credits. 

“While H.R. 7024 pulls 400,000 kids out of poverty, it leaves millions of children behind,” said Wisconsin Rep. Gwen Moore in a press release, “As a lawmaker, I understand [we] must compromise, but I am not willing to capitulate on providing relief for the neediest children.” 

The bill now moves to the Senate, where its prospects are uncertain. 

Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, the top Republican on the Budget Committee, told reporters on Jan. 31 that he was concerned enactment might boost Biden’s popularity and ultimately make it harder to make permanent the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the 2017 tax law that slashed tax rates for the richest Americans: ”Passing a tax bill that makes the president look good — mailing out checks before the election — means he could be re-elected, and then we won’t extend the 2017 tax cuts.”