Huffpost Politics
Elise Foley Headshot

Rick Santorum: Undocumented Immigrants Are All Law-Breakers

Posted: Updated:
RICK SANTORUM IMMIGRATION
Getty Images

GOP Presidential candidate Rick Santorum, a former senator from Pennsylvania, took a hard line on unauthorized immigration during a Wednesday campaign stop in Spencer, Iowa, saying undocumented immigrants are breaking the law with "everything" they do.

"You can't be here for 20 years and commit only one illegal act ... because everything you're doing while you're here is against the law," Santorum said, according to the Spencer Daily Reporter. "I understand Congressman Gingrich saying, 'Well, you know, people have been here and they've been good citizens and paying taxes.' Yeah, under somebody else's Social Security number because you stole it."

Santorum's line is based on a common refrain of those who oppose legalization for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States: "Illegal" immigrants have committed a crime simply by being in the country. In fact, even though crossing the border unauthorized is a criminal violation, living in the United States without documents is a civil violation.

The use of false Social Security numbers by undocumented workers is also more complicated than Santorum implies. Using another person's Social Security Number is likewise not necessarily criminal identity theft, according to a 2009 decision by the Supreme Court. In Flores-Figueroa v. United States, the court ruled that prosecutors must prove that someone knowingly used another person's Social Security number -- not simply that they used it -- in order to prove criminal identity theft.

In other words, undocumented immigrants may not be guilty of a crime. At the same time, most undocumented workers -- as many as three-quarters, according to the Social Security Administration -- are paying into Social Security through withholding by their employers, even though they will likely never benefit from the system. An estimated $9 billion per year in Social Security taxes are taken from undocumented workers each year, according to an Associated Press report.

Around the Web

Rick Santorum Has Tense Exchange on Gay Rights and Health Care in Iowa

Santorum Campaign Proves 'Anti-Gay' Can Sink Even a GOP Candidate

Santorum: Let's cut off Iran's oil supply

Rick Santorum Slams President Obama For Revealing Osama Bin Laden Died

 
  Obama Romney
Obama Romney
332 206
Obama leading
Obama won
Romney leading
Romney won
Popular Vote
33 out of 100 seats are up for election. 51 are needed for a majority.
Democrat leading
Democrat won
Holdover
Republican leading
Republican won
Democrats* Republicans
Current Senate 53 47
Seats gained or lost +2 -2
New Total 55 45
* Includes two independent senators expected to caucus with the Democrats: Angus King (Maine) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.).
All 435 seats are up for election. 218 are needed for a majority.
Democrat leading
Democrat won
Republican leading
Republican won
Democrats Republicans
Seats won 201 234
Click for Full Results