October 17, 2006 at 7:30 am

While many mischaracterization occur this one is being used nation wide.

Republicans are tagging Democratic opponents across the country for wanting to “give Social Security benefits to illegal immigrants.” But nobody’s proposing paying benefits to illegals, not until and unless they become US citizens or are granted legal status.

The charge is a mischaracterization of an amendment offered during debate of the immigration bill that passed the Senate last May with a healthy bi-partisan majority, 62-36. The amendment would change current law to prevent immigrants from getting credit toward future Social Security benefits from taxes paid before they have legal permission to work.

The measure has become a popular campaign issue for Republicans, particularly incumbent House members who raise it against their Democratic challengers. We have counted 29 GOP ads attacking Democrats with various versions of this misleading claim. Similar misconceptions about the measure were spread as part of a chain e-mail last spring and summer.

Along with this latest swarm of ads comes some related mischaracterizations, including a claim that the Senate plan “pays foreign workers more than Americans.” The Senate bill does have provisions to ensure that guest workers are paid no less than Americans. But no guest worker could be hired if a US citizen accepted the job.