Lawmakers: We must support Oregon's workers, including tax ID number filers
Like earlier generations of immigrants, our families came to this country in search of economic opportunity or to escape violence. Today's immigrant families come to the United States and Oregon for the same reason.
However, many of today's immigrant families face new barriers not encountered by prior generations — laws that keep them on the economic and social margins. An example of this is the set of rules determining who qualifies for the Earned Income Tax Credit, a credit intended to lift workers surviving on low wages.
The exclusion of certain immigrant families from the benefits of the EITC is inequitable and short-sighted: it harms workers making essential contributions to our state's economy, it undermines the well-being of their children, and it hurts the long-term capacity of our state. The Legislature can right this wrong by passing House Bill 2819.
The EITC exists because some jobs pay too little for workers to make ends meet. For workers who qualify, the credit raises their take-home pay, helping their families afford the essentials.
In many ways, the EITC shows what good public policy can accomplish. Decades of research shows that the EITC makes real improvements in the lives of families, both short and long term. The health of families improves. The children in these families have a greater chance of graduating from high school, going to college, and earning more as adults. It creates equity and opportunity — but as it is now, not for everyone.
A flaw in the federal rules denies this tax credit to workers who file taxes using an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, as opposed to a Social Security Number. Workers who use an ITIN include student visa holders, undocumented workers, certain survivors of domestic violence, and others.
The COVID-19 pandemic has drawn increased attention to the cruel and self-defeating nature of this exclusionary policy. Many undocumented workers have risked their health to harvest the food we eat, deliver groceries to our doorsteps, or care for us if we fall ill, yet they are unable to access this much needed benefit.
Despite often performing essential and difficult work, compensation for undocumented workers is typically lower than for other workers. This makes life even more challenging. They qualify for almost none of the social safety net benefits other workers receive, including the EITC. They are denied these benefits even though they pay taxes contributing to these supports.
It gets worse. The federal rules governing the EITC declare that if just one member of a household uses an ITIN when filing taxes, the entire household loses out on this benefit. In other words, the current law disqualifies U.S. citizens who live with an ITIN filer. In total, this rule denies the EITC to as many as a quarter-million Oregonians from working families — most of them people of color. This includes one in ten Oregon children, who are facing greater hardship because of the immigration status of a family member.
That's why we need HB 2819. The bill ends this inequitable policy by making ITIN filers eligible for the Oregon EITC. As an added measure of fairness, the bill makes up the difference for what Oregon ITIN filers lose out from the denial of the federal tax credit.
This bill is good for all of Oregon. It will increase the economic security of working families, improve the life-prospects for many of our children — the future of our state — and advance racial equity.
Ultimately, the bill speaks to our shared values: that all workers, no matter our place of origin, should be able to earn enough to care for our families. We urge our colleagues in the Oregon legislature to support HB 2819.
State Rep. Wlnsvey Campos is from Aloha, House District 28 in Washington County. Rep. Khanh Pham is from South East Portland, House District 46. Rep. Andrea Valderrama is from East Portland, House District 47.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.