Thursday, April 14, 2005

Facts On The Role Immigrants Play in American Society

A number of commenters have spoken about how undocumented people are taking away jobs, using up resources that could go to education and housing, etc., not paying taxes, etc. While I have had enough of these conversations to know that information doesn't change people's minds a lot of times, I'll offer it anyway in the spirit of openminded conversation, particularly for those of you who aren't convinced yet that immigrants are to blame for everything. I feel obligated to, given Given what I hope is the acknowledged inhumanity of what's happening to A, T, and has happened to over a million and a half other undocumented people over the past 10 years.

According to Alan Greenspan, Federal Reserve Board Chairman, congressional testimony, July 2001, "undocumented workers contribute more than their fair share to our great country". He continued to inform Congress that immigrants, including undocumented workers, in essence donate $27 billion to state and local economies.

This is the difference between what they pay in taxes $70 billion and what they use in services $43 billion. Greenspan also testified that in Illinois alone "Illegal workers pay $547 million in taxes yearly, compared to $238 million in services used." This is a net "profit" for Illinois of $309 million.

A recent February 2002 study by the University of Illinois found that even as undocumented workers paid federal and state income taxes -one study puts the amount of taxes paid at $90 billion per year-, they did not claim the tax refunds for which they were eligible. These unclaimed refunds amount to the donation of billions of dollars to the public coffers.

Another study by the Urban Institute found that undocumented workers contribute $2.7 billion to Social Security and another $168 million to unemployment insurance taxes. Because of their illegal status, these workers will not be able to access these programs even if they wanted to. In addition, the above tax donations, undocumented workers pay billions of dollars in local and state sales taxes when they purchase appliances, furniture, clothes and other goods.

According to The National Immigration Forum undocumented immigrants pay about $7 billion annually in taxes, subsidizing funds like Social Security and unemployment insurance from which they cannot collect benefits. In California, which accounts for about 43 percent of the nation's undocumented population, or about 1.4 million people, undocumented immigrants pay an additional $732 million in state and local taxes.

A UCLA study found that undocumented workers contribute approximately 7 percent of California's $900 billion gross economic product, or $63 billion. The contribution by each undocumented immigrant is therefore about $45,000, counting even children, the unemployed, and those too old or ill to work. Almost all undocumented workers receive wages near, and sometimes below, the legal minimum, which at $5.75 per hour equals an annual income of $11' 960.

Policy Analyst Walter Ewing cited in his March 2002 study the 2000 Census, revealed that the number of undocumented immigrants in the United State stood at about 8.7 million, an increase of nearly 5 million since 1990. This increase was due not to increased immigration, but to greater efforts during the 2000 Census to reach undercounted minority groups missed during the 1990 Census. He also cited a 2001 study by Northeastern University's Center for Labor Market Studies that estimated of the nations 19.1 million foreign-born workers comprised 12.8 percent of the total U.S. labor force in 1999 and 2000.

In addition, The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that in 2001 there were 14.7 million Hispanic workers in the United States, including 9.6 million of Mexican origin, spanning all occupational categories. According to a November 26, 2001, story in Fortune Magazine, the "nation's 27.6 million legal immigrants produced an estimated 10% of U.S. GDP {Gross Domestic Product}" in 2000, while undocumented immigrants made all additional contribution of more than $200 billion.

An August 2001 North American Integration and Development Center study estimated that undocumented immigrants from Mexico contributed $154 billion to the U.S. Gross Domestic Product in 2000, including $77 billion to the Gross State Product of California, assuming the presence of 3 million undocumented Mexican immigrants nationwide. Using a higher estimate of 4.5 million undocumented Mexican immigrants, their contribution to the GDP rose to $220 billion. If undocumented Mexican immigrants were to have suddenly disappeared, U.S. economic output would have declined by $155 billion.

In addition, undocumented immigrants also contribute billions of dollars in income, property and sales taxes, although it is difficult to quantify the amount. A January 2001 report by the Social Security Administration concluded that undocumented immigrants "account for a major portion" of the more than $20 billion paid to Social Security between 1990 and 1998 that payees can never draw upon because the payments took place under names or Social Security numbers that don't match the agency's records. Such payments totaled almost $4 billion in 1998. The Urban Institute calculated that in 1995 undocumented immigrants in New York alone contributed over $1.1 billion in taxes.

Source: A presentation of the Mexican Consul General in Omaha, NE 6/24/03, via the University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension

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