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Immigration could save US Social Security System

Immigration could help to solve the funding difficulties that America's strained social security system is likely to face in future, the website azcentral.com reports.

A report released on February 16 by the Virginia-based National Foundation for American Policy, which is based on data from the Social Security Administration, has calculated that if the Government were to increase legal US immigration numbers, the federal government's social security program would get an extra $US 128 billion to $216 billion over the next 75 years. However, cutting the number of foreigners allowed entry from the current annual maximum of 800,000 would result in losses of $207 billion to $611 billion.

The report's author Stuart Anderson, a policy advisor at the Immigration and Naturalization Service (now known as the US Citizenship and Immigration Service) during the first Bush administration, said immigrants tend to arrive in the US at the start of their working lives and contribute to the social security system for four decades before drawing benefits themselves. And their children could potentially pay into the system for six decades.

"The bottom line is that legal immigration benefits the social security system," said Mr. Anderson.

But the findings have been criticised by anti-immigration lobby groups, which claim that the figures are inaccurate and question what will happen when the immigrants themselves retire.

"The idea that we can solve the long-term problems of our Social Security system on the backs of millions of low-wage immigrants simply doesn't add up," said Dan Stein, executive director of the Federation for American Immigration Reform.

The report is likely to receive attention from lawmakers in Washington, because social security and immigration are two of the biggest current political issues. President George W. Bush is pushing for a guest worker program that would legitimize the status of millions of illegal immigrants. The administration also wants to partially privatize social security by allowing workers under 55 to divert some of what they now pay in social security taxes into private retirement accounts. Economists forecast major pressure on the social security system over the next few decades as the post war baby-boomer generation retires.