WASHINGTON—The U.S. Senate blocked an effort on Thursday to limit Social Security benefits for illegal immigrants who would become permanent residents under a sweeping immigration overhaul being debated by lawmakers.
The Senate immigration bill would give millions of the estimated 11 million to 12 million illegal immigrants in the country a path to citizenship as long as they pay a fine and back taxes and meet such requirements as learning English.
The Senate also killed an amendment offered by Sen. John Ensign, a Nevada Republican, that would have prevented immigrants who legalize their status from getting Social Security credit for work while they were illegal.
“Social Security was not intended for people who entered our country illegally,” Ensign said.
Opponents argued that the program collects millions of dollars every year from illegal workers and it would be unfair to deny them credit for those payments.
“Their money sits in the Social Security Administration waiting to be matched with an eligible beneficiary, and once those workers establish the eligibility, how in all fairness can we deny them the credit for their past contributions? “ asked Sen. Edward Kennedy, a Massachusetts Democrat.