During their working life, undocumented immigrants in the United States will pay, on average, approximately $80,000 more in taxes per capita than they use in government services, owing to the fact that they are not eligible to take advantage of almost all of the social service programs offered by the federal government, according to a study released by the National Council of La Raza.
According to the report, in June of 2007, the president’s Council of Economic Advisers stated that the “impact of undocumented immigration on public budgets is likely to be very positive.”
The report cites the Texas Comptroller’s disclosure that, in 2006, undocumented immigrants paid about $424.7 million more in state revenues – including sales tax and school property tax – than they used in state services, including education and health care.
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In addition to sales and property taxes, [an estimated three-quarters] of undocumented immigrants also pay payroll taxes through the use of false Social Security numbers.
According to statistics from the National Council of La Raza, these employees contribute approximately $7 billion to Social Security and $1.5 billion to Medicare every year, despite the fact that they are ineligible to receive these benefits. These numbers serve to counter arguments, promoted by anti-immigration forces, that undocumented immigrants are a drain on the state.
“These immigrants’ contributions to these programs are collected by the federal government to help it meet its goals,” according to the National Council of La Raza.
According to the national report, the majority of undocumented laborers also receive a very low salary, and often have no protections against workplace abuse.
In 2005, more than 1.5 million undocumented immigrants in the United States worked as either housekeepers or domestic laborers. Because of their legal status, these immigrants received an average weekly salary of $355 in 2006. The national average for this line of work in that same year was $671 a week.
Another challenge confronting undocumented workers in the United States is the fact that they often find themselves living below the poverty level, yet, unable to apply for economic assistance programs [such as food stamps, SCHIP and Medicaid] that low-income people with legal status are eligible to receive.
In El Paso, Texas, with the aim of rectifying workplace abuse and the exploitation of undocumented laborers, the Paso Del Norte Civil Rights Project launched the Economic Justice Program in September of 2009. Within a month of the program’s initiation, at least five El Paso workers, the majority of whom are undocumented, had won labor disputes against their former employers through negotiations with the assistance of the organization.
Chris Benoit, a legal representative of the organization, believes that workers’ rights are human rights, regardless of the migratory status of the individual.
Translation: Ryan Croken.
Ryan Croken is a freelance writer and editor based in Chicago. His essays and book reviews have appeared in The Philadelphia Inquirer, Z Magazine and ReligionDispatches.org. He can be reached at [email protected].