The United States is a country made up of immigrants — yet there is widespread stigma against those illegally entering the United States. Many people claim they do not pay taxes, use social services, and take jobs away from deserving American citizens. These claims are generally untrue, and no light is ever shed on the economic benefits that immigrants bring to the U.S.
Undocumented immigrants have the ability to — and do — pay taxes, even without proper documentation. The Internal Revenue Service will issue a federal tax ID number to anyone who applies for one, though this is not a replacement for a Social Security Number (SSN). No SSN or identification is required to obtain a tax ID number. One can even apply for this number online. This gives employers the ability to take out state and federal taxes. The employer then matches those taxes.
The worker files their taxes under the tax ID number. Without taking taxes out of employee’s paychecks, the employer would not be able to write off an employee’s labor as a business expense. A SSN is required in order to do payroll for businesses, and many undocumented workers will use a false number and pay still Social Security. In 2009, 7.7 undocumented workers poured in $72.8 billion worth of Social Security. However, these workers will never be able to reap the benefits of Social Security checks.
Without being a citizen, undocumented persons are not allowed to use social services, such as food stamps or welfare. So, taxpayers’ dollars are not used on them. In the case of hospitals, undocumented persons are allowed to have access to healthcare, yet they are paying federal, state, and sales taxes, which go to fund hospitals. The same argument is used with the public school systems. Especially in counties where there is an additional percentage of sales tax to fund education, undocumented immigrants support the schools by purchasing all their necessities on their town. This creates more revenue for the county. Undocumented immigrants support their local economies because they, too, need to eat, shop, and have a place to live.
Under the harsh anti-immigrant laws, especially in the Southeast, many undocumented workers have left their jobs and the area due to fear and possible racial profiling. One of the harshest laws, HB 56 exist in Alabama where the farming industry, in particular, has suffered. The state is not only losing taxpayers, but workers. More agricultural jobs have opened up, yet farmers are still having a tough time filling the positions. In this case, farms lose produce and some plan to not plant for the next season. That, in turn, drives the prices of food up, as sources will either be limited or imported from elsewhere. The U.S. needs people of all skill levels in order to have a well-rounded, functioning economy. While we welcome those with a high skill set, we also need those to do low skilled jobs.
The desire of many immigrants is to be contributing members of society, to work hard and make a better life for themselves. They see America as the land of opportunity just like immigrants did 100 years ago. Unfortunately, with a broken immigration system and a long, to non-existent wait period, families are forced to enter the United States unlawfully due to extreme hardships in their home country or other circumstances beyond their control.
Undocumented persons, unbeknownst to many Americans, are huge contributors to the American economy. Our economy would come to a halt without the labor and taxes, among many things that they provide the U.S.
Social Security stats: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/2017113852_immigtaxes29.html
Elizabeth Murray—native of Atlanta, GA; graduated with a business degree from the University of South Carolina in May 2011; first year master’s of divinity student at Duke Divinity School; certified candidate for ministry in the United Methodist Church.
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