Immigration and the harm undocumented people supposedly cause are constant themes brought up by the Republican majority in Congress and in the current presidential primary, where the discussion over border control to prevent entry has become a race to see who is stricter.
No one listening to the argument will learn that half of the people who are in the country without papers did not enter by sneaking in through the border, but with a visa which they allowed to expire. Still, candidates compete to see who promises to build the tallest, longest wall between Mexico and the U.S. to stop these undocumented people from coming in, thus healing all socioeconomic problems.
Thinking that armoring the border will be the end of undocumented immigrants is as big a mistake as believing that workers are a fiscal burden, which is another oft-repeated fallacy.
An analysis by the non-partisan Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) estimated that undocumented people paid $11,640 million in state and local taxes in 2013. This is an actual 8% individual tax rate. This, on top of property taxes paid, whether as owners or tenants. At a federal level, an estimated 50% of all undocumented people file income taxes with their Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). Equally, much of the money they have contributed to Social Security goes to the federal fund, never to be claimed because it was paid using fake numbers.
The study also confirms what has been observed in the cases of DREAMers and DACA beneficiaries: Regularizing undocumented people increases their contribution to the country’s coffers. This means that, far from a burden, a comprehensive immigration reform will result in a financial boom as the financial capabilities of these individuals grow with their access to better job opportunities, and free from the fear of deportation.
The contribution of undocumented people to the country’s tax revenue is undeniable. They have no access to social services and, when they do, they rarely use them, as demonstrated by several studies.
The debate over undocumented people is contaminated with innuendo, deceitful statements, anecdotes and lies. The analysis made by ITEP provides well-documented clarity to the discussion. There are none so blind as those who will not see.