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Politics

Unauthorized immigrants help prop up America's economy

Esther J. Cepeda on

CHICAGO -- Whenever I see a viral video of a racist person harassing a Spanish speaker with brown skin because they seem "illegal," I comfort myself with the vivid image of millions of Latinos watching the spectacle with bafflement as they fan themselves with a stack of $100 bills.

It's not silly.

People act like unauthorized immigrants are the biggest pox upon the Great American Experiment, but the fact is that immigrants pour billions of dollars into the tax coffers of local and state governments every year. In fact, they paid an estimated $11.7 billion just in 2014, according to the Institute on Taxation & Economic Policy. This includes an estimated $1.1 billion in state income taxes and $3.6 billion in property taxes.

Federal taxes can be added on top: The IRS estimated in 2015 that 4.4 million income-tax returns came from workers with no Social Security numbers, resulting in $23.6 billion in income taxes. This, of course, doesn't include payroll taxes or the taxes paid by immigrants who work on someone else's Social Security number.

For years, it's been an open secret that unauthorized immigrant workers are propping up the Social Security retirement trust fund and Medicare systems -- even though they can't access benefits from either of those programs.

Most people don't know that there's been a system in place for unauthorized immigrants and other foreign-born people to get Taxpayer Identification Numbers with which to file income taxes since 1996.

 

Moreover, schemes to legalize immigrants have often hinged on requiring them to prove they have a track record of paying their taxes. This has, at least in part, resulted in a windfall for the government.

You also have to stop to consider that unauthorized immigrants represent but a small percentage of all the Latinos in our country -- as a whole, all immigrants represent only about a third of all Hispanics.

And make no mistake: Latinos have money. They also have property.

"Over the past decade, Hispanics have accounted for 62.7% of net U.S. homeownership gains, growing from 6,303,000 homeowners to 7,877,000, a total increase of 1,574,000 Hispanic homeowners," according to the 2018 State of Hispanic Home Ownership report from the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals.

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