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
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.