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A Republican congressman is pushing a bill that would prohibit the federal government from paying Social Security benefits to non-citizens living in other countries.

Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, re-introduced his bill, the Social Security for American Citizens Only Act, H.R. 858, in February after sponsoring a similar piece of legislation last year.

“Please protect Social Security from being transformed into a system of global welfare by cosponsoring my Social Security for American Citizens Only Act,” Paul wrote to his colleagues.

The bill amounts to a pre-emptive strike against any efforts by the Bush administration to allow non-citizens in Mexico who worked for a time in the U.S., most illegally, to collect Social Security. Paul’s legislation would prohibit all non-citizens from receiving the benefit regardless of where they live.

Currently the bill has nine co-sponsors and has been referred to the House Ways and Mean Committee.

The bill also ends the practice of totalization, which allows certain non-citizens to collect Social Security even though they have not worked in America (and thus not paid payroll taxes) as long as American citizens must to qualify for Social Security.

In 2003, U.S. and Mexican officials were actively discussing a deal that would allow legal and illegal immigrants to return home but still collect U.S. benefits. Such an agreement could mean the transfer of hundreds of millions of dollars in payments south of the border.

Supporters say the move would improve the daily lives of Mexican citizens.

“Let’s be honest, there are millions of Mexican immigrants contributing to the Social Security system and the U.S. economy,” Katherine Culliton, an attorney with the Washington, D.C., office of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, told Gannett News Service in 2003. “It’s only fair they get back a benefit they deserve that will keep them from dying in poverty.”

Social Security Administration officials estimate about 50,000 Mexicans would collect $78 million in the first year of a U.S.-Mexican agreement. By 2050, the number is predicted to swell to 300,000 Mexicans collecting $650 million in benefits a year.

But that number doesn’t include the potentially eligible, illegal Mexican immigrants. Accounting for illegals, the agreement could cost U.S. taxpayers $750 million within five years of implementation.

“If you look back to when Social Security was created, it was never intended to be an individual foreign-aid program,” Jeff Deist, a spokesman for Paul, told WND. “It was intended to provide money to keep old people in the U.S. out of poverty.”

If it became law, Deist noted, Paul’s bill would encourage aliens who come to the U.S. legally to become citizens.

“It’s good to encourage people, if they’re going to come here and reap the benefits of our economy, to have an allegiance to the United States,” he said.

Deist said the reason Mexico is such a concern is because of the huge monetary impact it represents compared to other nations.

“We do have totalization agreements with some countries,” Deist explained, “but signing such an agreement with Mexico opens a much larger can of worms.

“Paying Social Security to people in Mexico is the last thing we should be doing. … We’re already scrambling to figure out how we’re going to pay benefits 10, 20, 30 years from now. Surely we ought not to be adding to that by putting a bunch of new people on the rolls.”

While Deist admits the issue of a possible agreement with Mexico has died down, he says Paul will attempt to add his legislation to the Social Security reform bill that is expected to be acted on by Congress, possibly later this year.

Said Deist: “We’re going to add this issue to the mix.”

Related stories:

Social Security for Mexicans closer to reality

Mexicans to collect U.S. Social Security?

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