Under current law, only legal immigrants are entitled to Social Security disability or retirement benefits, and this is only after they pay into the program for the required amount of time. But: undocumented workers do contribute to Social Security’s stability! Some undocumented immigrants will use a fake Social Security number or a friend’s number to receive pay, which will be subject to payroll tax. Undocumented workers paid $13.3 billion into Social Security in 2016, and these workers will never receive a dime of this money back.
According to a 2010 analysis by the Social Security Administration’s Office of Retirement and Disability Policy, the program’s trust fund is expected to be exhausted by 2037. Social Security either has or is expected to soon begin paying out more in benefits than it earns in revenues.
Immigration into the United States is a vital component in Social Security’s success. Migrants into this country tend to be young, which means they’re likely to spend decades in the workforce, contributing a portion of their earnings into the program via the payroll tax. In addition, by spending many years in the workforce, these legal migrants will earn themselves a Social Security benefit when they retire.
Despite what you might have heard, undocumented immigrants are not eligible for a Social Security retirement or disability benefit. Period. What you might be thinking of is Supplemental Security Income (SSI), a program run by the SSA, but funded in a completely different way. SSI can be paid to asylum seekers, refugees, and people admitted for lawful permanent residence. But make no mistake — an SSI payment is not a traditional Social Security benefit.