I would like to clear up a lot of myths and misinformation that are cycled in regards to how much immigrants contribute to our tax system. For example:
– “All immigrants pay taxes whether they are illegal or not. They pay them in the forms of: property tax (directly if they own a home, or indirectly if they rent); sales tax on all the goods they buy; and income tax at Federal, State and local level — if their employment is properly recorded and tax deductions administered by their employer. However, since illegal immigrants do not have work permits and cannot legally be employed, they are often employed “off the books” in casual or seasonal work by less scrupulous employers who pay in cash and don’t deduct taxes.”
– “Since illegal immigrants often have fake or stolen documents, including fake and stolen Social Security numbers, the money they pay into the system is money that will never be withdrawn. The amount in question is evidenced by the Social Security Administration’s “suspense file” (taxes that cannot be matched to workers’ names and Social Security numbers), which grew $20 billion between 1990 and 1998.”
– “Still, the true owners of the Social Security numbers are often targeted by the IRS for failure to pay taxes, resulting in real victimization of legal residents.”
These were all found (after a brief Google) on: http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Myths_and_facts_about_immigration_to_the_United_States.
Many immigration reform supporters read and use articles like The Atlantic’s “Immigration Reform Isn’t Just About Numbers – It’s About Skills, Too” as their evidence. However, this article and similar reports use vague correlations and inaccurate data as evidence of specific causation. They even logically contradict themselves within their own articles by arguing that both US immigration policy and the immigrants’ lack of previous education and skill sets (presumably before they got to the US) are the cause for increased poverty rates in the US. And, thus, the US should change immigration reform to exclude those “poorer than the receiving country.”
To support this, they use statistics “proving” that immigrants are the largest group living at or under the poverty rates in the US, statistics like those in the March 2011 Current Population Survey. This survey, however, includes U.S.-born children of immigrants in their numbers (http://cis.org/node/3876#10). Thus implying that because these children were born to immigrant parents, their lack of education/skill is a cause of immigrant poverty (their lack of education stemming from a lack of education received while living in the US). The fault points to US education policies, not the immigrants themselves and not US immigration policy.
A commentator on the above Atlantic article’s comment thread said it succinctly:
Changing the reform to focus on what immigrants bring to the country rather than examine the US itself, is an “easy way to ignore the corporate sponsored de-skilling policies that have been producing the ballooning inequality in the the US since the Reagan era.
The best way to respond to a collapse of social mobility and poor performance on measures of literacy and numeracy is to address these issues for everyone rather than to relying on the another country to invest in its citizens on behalf of the US.”
In other words, it’s a very selfish way to blame other countries for our problems. It’s no wonder there are so many people living at or below poverty level in the US, we literally do not have the adequate infrastructure (education, economic, etc.) to support those who aren’t already high wage earners. Poverty is not a problem with immigrants, but with the US as a whole.
Immigrants, especially those who come to the US to seek better education and employment, just get the short end of the stick. They come to the US to succeed but then we tell them, “well, you don’t have any previous education or experience, so we’re not going to educate you and give you jobs that require skills.”
It’s the same Catch-22 that recent college graduates face in the job market: you need experience to get the job, but you need a job to get experience. Immigration reform is not the answer, educational and policy reform is.