MILWAUKEE – Illegal immigrants are often criticized as unfair competition for U.S. jobs. Now, with an unprecedented program in Wisconsin, they could be competing with legal residents for a new home — with help from the state government.
Click in the video box to the right to watch a report by FOX News' Steve Brown.
The first-in-the-nation program, run by the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority , is helping to make getting a first mortgage easier —for illegal immigrants.
The new home-mortgage program has Republican state Sen. Glenn Grothman up in arms.
"I don't think the state of Wisconsin should be sending the message that our immigration laws are a joke," Grothman said.
The Wisconsin mortgage program follows the lead of the Internal Revenue Service ( search), which gives out individual taxpayer identification numbers, or I-TINS, largely to people in the United States illegally so that they can legally pay income tax. Wisconsin is now allowing I-TINS to be used where Social Security numbers would normally be required.
"We are not the immigration police. In fact, the IRS won't even allow us to inquire about the status of people who have I-TIN numbers," said WHEDA Executive Director Antonio Riley.
So far, about 150 mortgages totaling more than $16 million have been granted to Wisconsin I-TIN holders.
"When you set-up a program in which you don't have a Social Security number, they themselves know and are admitting that the vast majority, if not everybody who's taking advantage of this program, is in this country illegally," Grothman said.
"It's money earned, taxes paid, families need a home. It's that simple," said Democratic state Rep. Pedro Colon.
Colon said that if neighborhoods like his largely Hispanic South Milwaukee district are to succeed, home ownership is vital. He also blasts federal lawmakers for leaving illegal aliens in a "no-man's land" in which they are able to pay federal taxes but unable to get permanent residency.
"The U.S. Congress is the laziest place in politics today," Colon said. "[It] doesn't give us the luxury of sitting around and watching our communities fail."
Grothman said he wants essentially to eliminate the I-TIN mortgages and has proposed that Social Security numbers be required for state loans.
He said that even though he believes the vast majority of Wisconsin is with him on this, he's not sure his own party is.
"If my legislation doesn't pass, it shows a high degree of cowardice on the part of the Republican leadership of the state of Wisconsin," Grothman said.
Wisconsin GOP leaders say they do not fear Hispanic voter backlash getting in the way of Grothman's legislation, but that the party has other priorities, like election law reform, that needs to be completed first.