Ilhan Omar faces pushback after defending illegal immigrants as 'American taxpayers'

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Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., sparked online controversy Wednesday after she attempted to reframe reporting on her desire to direct coronavirus aid to illegal immigrants.

"There, fixed it for you," Omar tweeted alongside an image of a New York Post headline that read: "'Squad' members want to make illegal immigrants eligible for coronavirus aid." The Minnesota congresswoman crossed out the phrase "illegal immigrants" and replaced it with "American taxpayers."

Omar's tweet touched a nerve, as both sides of the immigration debate have disagreed over whether illegal immigrants are unfairly reaping the benefits of public services.

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Some on Twitter pushed back with headline revisions of their own, including one that simply said "aliens."

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"An illegal immigrant is not an American," one user wrote. Omar, who has called for the abolition of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), has a history of making controversial comments about the issue. For example, she suggested last June that it was "un-American to criminalize immigrants wanting to come to this country for a better life."

On Tuesday, the congresswoman released a statement in which she argued that Congress' coronavirus relief package excluded so-called "mixed-status" families, which include people who are noncitizens.

“It is absurd and cruel that a taxpaying, mixed status [sic] couple or family could be excluded from this relief,” Omar said.

“Over 140,000 Minnesotans live in mixed status [sic] families of some form. As currently written, many Minnesotans who are in this country legally or part of a mixed status [sic] family will not receive any stimulus money, even if one of them has a social security [sic] number but the other does not.”

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Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., previously accused Republicans of ensuring coronavirus aid money only went to Americans who have Social Security numbers.

"To clarify, $1200 checks are ONLY going to some w/social sec numbers, NOT immigrants w/ tax IDs (ITINs)," Ocasio-Cortez tweeted. "Thanks to GOP, these checks will be cut off the backs of *taxpaying immigrants,* who get nothing. Many are essential workers who pay more taxes than Amazon. Wall St gets $4T[.]"

An Individual Tax Identification Number (ITINs) is, as the IRS describes, "a tax processing number only available for certain nonresident and resident aliens, their spouses, and dependents who cannot get a Social Security Number." This includes illegal immigrants.

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A conservative group's study in 2017 found illegal immigrants are a net consumer of taxpayer benefits worth more than $100 billion a year, not including the cost of enforcing the border. While federal benefits are supposed to be off limits, in practice many are not. More than 25,000 undocumented workers receive subsidized housing, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Children receive free education and most qualify for English lessons and free school breakfast and lunch.

Another report from 2016 said that undocumented immigrants paid $11.6 billion per year in state taxes.

Fox News' William La Jeunesse and Ronn Blitzer contributed to this report.