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For nearly six months, loyal PolitiFact readers have encouraged us to look into a chain email about undocumented immigrants getting Social Security benefits.
The e-mail has come in several forms, but most often goes as follows:
"It does not matter if you personally like or dislike Obama. It is already impossible to live on Social Security alone. If the government gives benefits to illegal aliens who have never contributed, where does that leave those of us who have paid into Social Security all our working lives? Please sign this petition and flood President Obama's e-mail box with e-mails that tell him that, even if the House passes this bill, he needs to veto it. ... The Senate voted this week to allow illegal aliens access to Social Security benefits."
Typically, the text is followed by hundreds of signatures asking President Barack Obama to veto said bill.
The e-mails provide no bill number, no bill name and — oddly — they all insist that the Senate "voted this week" on the legislation. Yet, we've been getting the same petition for months.
Digging back through our own archives we found the first version of this e-mail was sent on Feb. 13, 2009, a Friday. As with the many that have followed, the e-mail claimed the Senate had just voted on the bill, so we went back to the Congressional Record to see what the Senate had been debating that week, and we found that the stimulus was on the chamber's agenda.
At first we thought the e-mail might have something to do with the stimulus package, but upon further investigation, we found that the claim goes back as far as 2006, as our friends at FactCheck.org have pointed out. (Then, the claim was used against senators who voted against an amendment to the Comprehensive Immigration Act that would have blocked Social Security benefits to legal immigrants who paid taxes before they obtained the right to work.)
But back to 2009. We ran a search in Thomas, the Library of Congress's bill database, and found no such legislation. And just to be sure we hadn't missed anything, we contacted several groups that typically weigh in on the immigration debate to see if they'd heard otherwise.
The answer from all corners was a resounding "no."
"We're not aware of any such bill," said Ira Mehlman, communication director for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a group that advocates for stronger border security and stricter immigration laws.
"This garbage has been floating around since 2006" when Congress was debating the immigration bill, said Jon Blazer, who is an attorney with the National Immigration Law Center. "First it was George Bush, and they just changed the name to Obama."
Like most chain e-mails, it seems this letter has morphed through a Web-based game of telephone. What started as a specious campaign attack back in 2006 has hung around as a rumor under the new administration. We've been getting this e-mail for six months, and every time, it exclaims that the Senate voted "this week" on such a bill. Unless our senators are trapped in a time warp, debating and passing the same bill every week, such a claim is impossible. It's Pants on Fire for this chain e-mail!
The Congressional Record, agenda for Feb. 13, 2009 , accessed July 29, 2009
Media Matters, For four hours after AP correction, Drudge flogged false claim about undocumented immigrants , accessed July 29, 2009
FactCheck.org, Is Congress about to give Social Security to illegal immigrants? , accessed July 29, 2009
The Library of Congress, THOMAS , accessed July 29, 2009
Interview with Ira Mehlman, communication director for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, July 29, 2009
Interview with Jon Blazer, attorney with the National Immigration Law Center, July 29, 2009
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