Fool Me Once; Or, Remembering Schumer's Secret Tax Amnesty In 1986

Mississippi Senator Trent Lott and other supporters of the pending Senate immigration bill claim that its grass-roots opponents "don't know what's in the bill."

That's ironic, given that S. 1348 was

 

  • drafted in secret;

 

  • unaccompanied by an explanatory report;

 

In other words the whole process from start to finish was designed to ensure that no one would know "what's in the bill" before it was rammed through the Senate.

Under the circumstances, it's astonishing how many people at the grass roots actually do know "what's in the bill"—thanks of course to talk radio, organizations like Numbers USA, and websites like VDARE.COM.

Indeed, the word from Senate staffers is that their bosses were taken aback by the breadth of opposition from middle-America constituents who ordinarily know little and care less about what Congress is up to.

What came through with particular force was profound skepticism that politicians who allowed this problem to fester for 20 years could be trusted to follow through on the bill's enforcement provisions.

The public is right to be skeptical—and they only know the half of it. It is not simply that Congress and the Executive Branch will lack the will to enforce the new rules. We may also predict with moral certainty that, as soon as the President signs any "comprehensive reform" legislation, the Democratic sponsors of "comprehensive" reform will immediately begin the process of watering down, if not repealing, nearly everything in the new law that supporters of true immigration reform would find appealing.  

For example, the bill accelerates the issuance of family-based immigration visas to backlogged applicants in exchange for moving, eventually, to a merit-based system of immigration.

But can anyone doubt that within a few years (if not within a few months) a family-based visa system will be reintroduced on top of the merit-based visa system?

Am I being too cynical? Consider the de facto tax amnesty that Congress enacted in 1988 for the millions of illegal aliens who benefited from the 1986 immigration amnesty.

Never heard of it?

Of course not—that was the idea.

The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, which combined an amnesty for several million illegal aliens with a promise of increased enforcement, did not provide a tax amnesty. Quite the contrary, the sponsors of the amnesty claimed that the illegal aliens were paying their taxes. Only two weeks before enacting the immigration amnesty, Congress added section 6039E to the Internal Revenue Code, requiring that all applicants for permanent resident visas disclose whether they had filed their income tax returns. Congress expected that "such a requirement would provide the IRS with information that would enable it to contact nonfilers and, if necessary, initiate collection actions." S. Rep. No. 99-13 at 390 (1986).

As enacted, section 6039E was to be enforced "notwithstanding any other provision of law" and therefore clearly applied to the immigration amnesty. Nevertheless, three months after the two laws were passed, then-Congressman Charles Schumer wrote to the Secretary of the Treasury expressing "concern" that the government "will feel compelled" to abide by the law and requesting that the IRS "immediately" issue a regulation exempting amnestied illegal aliens from the tax reporting rules. (A copy of the letter is here [ PDF])

The Treasury Department declined to issue the regulation requested by Schumer. So Congress enacted a "technical correction" to section 6039E in 1988, making it retroactively inapplicable to amnestied illegal aliens. [P.L. 100-647, §1012(o).]

Schumer, of course, is now the Senator of New York (D)—and advocating another amnesty.

The purpose of a "technical correction" is to correct a mistake in the drafting of legislation so that it will conform to the intent of those who voted for it.

In other words, by enacting the tax amnesty as a "technical correction", Congress was in effect admitting that it had always been its intention to exempt illegal aliens from the new tax reporting rules. Apparently, it had just conveniently forgotten to mention the exemption to the general public during the debate on the illegal immigrant amnesty.

So, when you hear backers of the Senate bill promise that the 12+ million amnestied illegals will be required to "pay back taxes", take a deep breath and remember "Schumer's Secret Tax Amnesty"

"Another Catholic Reader" is a tax lawyer. A million years ago, he commented on Bush's visit to Bob Jones University. Email will be forwarded—mark "For Another Catholic Reader".