Friday, October 23, 2015

The Cost of Illegal Immigration

They pay social security and medicare taxes but can never reap the benefits.  They're supporting the fat retired asses of all those teabaggers screaming for deportation.  Including Donald Fucking Trump.  11 million undocumented immigrants are keeping this country afloat.

In the rural Arkansas town where Marisol Soto grew up, the 21-year-old student was the only undocumented immigrant in her high school. Her immigration status isolated her, but it also gave her a window into how little her neighbors understood about the realities of the issue. “It’s the South. It’s very country, and my story is not common here,” Soto told me. “They don’t know how we get here. They don’t know we have to cross a desert, cross rivers, to get to this country.”

But it wasn’t until the ascendance of Donald Trump this summer that Soto decided she had to start responding to the stereotype of undocumented immigrants as law-breaking, job-stealing murderers and rapists. “Hearing all these comments thanks to Donald Trump getting everyone all riled up, I had to find a way to fix it.”

Her answer was #Undocumoney, a social-media campaign meant to correct the belief that undocumented immigrants don’t pay taxes. In a short video, Soto ticks off report findings that show undocumented immigrants, who are not eligible for many public programs, including federal student aid, Medicaid and Medicare, and Social Security, nonetheless pay into those systems. They are financing public investment programs, even as they’re barred from accessing the benefits.

Soto’s campaign resonated—grabbing headlines and airtime on Telemundo, the New York Daily News, and NBC—in part because so much of the political fight over immigration has been waged with misleading facts and figures. At the second GOP debate, for example, Trump repeatedly harped on a mysterious $200 billion the U.S. is supposedly spending annually to “maintain what we have” when it comes to undocumented immigrants. It’s still unclear what Trump was even referring to with the figure. (The cost of deporting every single undocumented immigrant from the country, as Trump would also like, has been estimated at $140 billion.)

So here are three simple facts to ground further debate over the supposed costs of undocumented immigration.

#1 Yes, undocumented immigrants pay taxes.

And they do so in multiple forms. Undocumented immigrants are not just workers, they’re also consumers who must pay standard sales and excise taxes. According to an April 2015 report from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, undocumented immigrants paid an estimated $11.8 billion in state and local taxes in 2012. According to ITEP, half of undocumented immigrant households file income taxes using special ID numbers issued by the federal government to those who don’t have Social Security numbers.

#2 Undocumented immigrants are a net financial gain for Social Security, in particular.

In 2013, the Social Security Administration estimated that for the year 2010, undocumented immigrants paid $12 billion in excess tax revenue into Social Security—money they cannot currently withdraw. Or, as the SSA’s brief put it, “earnings by unauthorized immigrants result in a net positive effect on Social Security financial status generally.”

It’s true that while undocumented immigrants constitute an often unacknowledged boon for the federal government, studies have concluded that they tend to use more in local and state public services than they pay into those systems, the Congressional Budget Office found in 2007. But even subtracting the cost of local and state services for which undocumented immigrants are eligible—public education, for instance—from what they contribute in taxes, the CBO found that the “net impact of the unauthorized population on state and local budget…is most likely modest.”

But it’s not the numbers Trump and other GOP candidates have spouted off that have left the deepest impression on Soto; it’s the harmful idea that undocumented immigrants are leeches on the US economy. “He did not use the word ‘parasite’—but after hearing him say that we are more of a burden than a help to this country, that’s how it made me feel,” Soto said.

Her campaign asks supporters to stamp US currency with the phrase “#undocumoney” to show that even those who don’t have the authorization to be in the U.S. contribute to the economy. On Instagram, over 400 posts have included the tag in photos of people fanning their payday earnings or just taking photos of cold hard cash. “We’ve gotten e-mails from teachers saying: You’ve given me information I was not aware of,” Soto says. She adds that even “people who adore the Confederate flag” have told her she’s brave for speaking up.

“The problem with immigration is ignorance, and if you inform people of what’s really going on I think we would have so much better of a reaction,” Soto said.

#3 But the “cost” of undocumented immigration isn’t even the point.

Unfortunately, there’s a deeper racialized xenophobia that abets the kind of ignorance Soto wants to fight—one that facts and figures just can’t combat. The belief that immigrants are dirty and diseased thieves is so worn, and so reliable a fear-mongering tactic that casting them as such is practically engraved into the modern (and historical) US electoral politics playbook.


The debate over whether immigrants do or don’t pay taxes is, in other words, a very old one. Or, as William Gaston, a domestic policy adviser in President Bill Clinton’s administration, told the Fiscal Times, “I’ve been listening to this argument for so long I can no longer figure out what’s new about it.”

That’s why some argue that those who support undocumented immigrants do themselves a disservice by focusing narrowly on correcting lies about dollars and cents. “When we’re positioned as and only valued as and only advocated for in terms of what we can contribute economically, we leave out so many people,” says Sonia Guinansaca, a writer and staffer at CultureStrike, a pro-immigrant arts organization.
And for the nth time, unless you are a full-blooded Native American, shut the fuck up.

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