On a recent trip to Cape Cod, I saw the herein pictured bumper sticker, “Pay Your Taxes / 12 Million Illegal Aliens Depend on You."
As an immigration attorney, I love immigration and also a good debate, so it took all I had not to embarrass my family by picking a bone with the truck owner.
The question is though, who depends on whom? And for what? And, the topic of this blog, why do people seem to assume that “illegal aliens” don’t pay taxes?
The statistics are clear that they DO pay taxes. Billions of dollars’ worth. The US depends on the labor and money provided by this segment of our population and on their annual billions in taxes (about $8 billion in Social Security alone).
In a report addressing exactly this topic back in 2007, Congress concluded: “Over the past two decades, most efforts to estimate the fiscal impact of immigration in the United States have concluded that, in aggregate and over the long term, tax revenues of all types generated by immigrants—both legal and unauthorized—exceed the cost of the services they use.” The Congress of the United States - Congressional Budget Office. 12-2007.
All knowing Wikipedia (C’mon, who hasn’t quoted Wikipedia?!?) provides, “the evidence suggests that the overall costs imposed on the U.S. economy by undocumented immigrants are equivalent to or outweighed by the benefits”.
The Social Security Administration estimates that 75% of undocumented immigrants are actually on formal payrolls and are paid by check just like anyone else. This means that, just like everyone else, they receive a paycheck with the corresponding tax already deducted. Like most people in the labor force, these tax payers would likely be eligible to receive a good chunk of those payments back yet many are too scared to actually file a tax return – though many more are doing so with the introduction of a non-Social Security tax identification number (ITIN). Through these automatic payroll deductions undocumented immigrants pay into Social Security (again, an estimated $8 billion every year!) but they can never claim Social Security benefits like the documented sector of the population. And of course, while most of us have a right to the benefits our taxes fund – like welfare, food stamps, and unemployment insurance, undocumented immigrants will never benefit from those programs, despite the fact that they help fund them.
So, who depends on whom? While other immigration topics may provide for a good heated debate, the claim that “illegal immigrants don’t pay taxes” is just not true, let alone the assertion that they somehow depend on tax funded benefits that they are not eligible to receive.