Elton Gallegly—the conservative Republican representing the 24th Congressional District, which includes parts of Santa Barbara—has introduced a bill that he claims will prevent foreign nationals from “raiding” the Social Security fund. Titled the Total Overhaul of Totalilization Agreements Law (TOTAL), Gallegly’s bill would prohibit Social Security payments to foreign nationals unless they legally work here for at least 10 years. (Totalization agreements govern the payment of social security benefits to foreign workers.) The U.S. has reciprocal totalization agreements with about 20 different countries, but not Mexico. Thus, Mexicans citizens cannot collect Social Security at all, even if they are working legally. Gallegly’s bill, which would apply universally to all foreign nationals, was written in response to President Bush’s announcement that he intends to enter a totalization agreement with Mexico.
Some of the current agreements pay social security benefits even for short stints of work in the U.S. The 10-year minimum period of time that a foreign national would have to work in order to qualify for social security payments is one of the distinguishing aspects of Gallegly’s bill. In addition, Gallegly’s bill specifies that the money would be paid to the foreign worker’s home country, rather than directly to the individual. It also specifies that social security cannot be collected for undocumented or illegal work, even if the worker were later to be granted citizenship or amnesty. Gallegly spokesperson Tom Pfeifer said that the prospect of great numbers of low-paid Mexican workers in the U.S. collecting social security constitutes an economic threat that is not posed by better paid foreign workers from other countries. The lower the wage, he explained, the greater the percentage of pay-in the benefit represents.
The totalization bill, introduced January 29, is the seventh immigration bill Gallegly has introduced this year. The others, all introduced January 4, are aimed at tracking down, deporting, and imposing stiffer penalties on deportable aliens.