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Just the Facts

Immigration Fact Checks provide up-to-date information on the most current issues involving immigration today.

Unauthorized Immigrants Pay Taxes, Too

Estimates of the State and Local Taxes Paid by Unauthorized Immigrant Households

Tax Day is an appropriate time to underscore the often-overlooked fact that unauthorized immigrants pay taxes.  The unauthorized, like everyone else in the United States, pay sales taxes.  They also pay property taxes—even if they rent.  At least half of unauthorized immigrants pay income taxes.  Add this all up and it amounts to billions in revenue to state and local governments.  The Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) has estimated the state and local taxes paid in 2010 by households that are headed by unauthorized immigrants. These households may include members who are U.S. citizens or legal immigrants.  Collectively, these households paid $11.2 billion in state and local taxes.  That included $1.2 billion in personal income taxes, $1.6 billion in property taxes, and $8.4 billion in sales taxes.  The states receiving the most tax revenue from households headed by unauthorized immigrants were California ($2.7 billion), Texas ($1.6 billion), Florida ($806.8 million), New York ($662.4 million), and Illinois ($499.2 million) {See Figure 1 and Table 1}.  These figures should be kept in mind as politicians and commentators continue with the seemingly endless debate over what to do with unauthorized immigrants already living in the United States.  In spite of the fact that they lack legal status, these immigrants—and their family members—are adding value to the U.S. economy; not only as taxpayers, but as workers, consumers, and entrepreneurs as well. Read more...

Published On: Mon, Apr 18, 2011 | Download File

E-Verify and the Social Security Administration: A Rocky Road Ahead for U.S. Seniors

Many who support deportation-only immigration measures want to expand the E-Verify electronic employment verification system. However, doing so would place enormous additional responsibilities on the Social Security Administration (SSA)—an already overburdened agency.  If SSA has to spend time and resources verifying Social Security numbers and fixing database errors for work authorization purposes, SSA will have less time and resources to handle its primary function: providing benefits to millions of deserving Americans.  That’s why the AARP, the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, and other organizations have voiced their concerns over mandatory E-Verify.  In 2007, the president of the National Council of Social Security Management Associations, Inc. testified that mandatory E-Verify could “cripple SSA’s service capabilities” and negate any progress in addressing the backlog of applications for disability benefits. Read more...

Published On: Fri, Apr 15, 2011 | Download File

The Diversity Visa System: A Fact Sheet

What is the diversity visa lottery?

The diversity visa lottery was created to encourage legal immigration to the U.S. from countries other than the major immigrant sending countries.  The current immigration system favors individuals who have close relationships with family members or employers in the U.S.  People who do not have close family or employment in the U.S. have very few opportunities for permanent, legal immigration to the U.S. Read more...

Published On: Mon, Apr 04, 2011 | Download File

The U.S. Economy Still Needs Highly Skilled Foreign Workers

And Arbitrary Caps on H-1B Visas Still Don’t Meet that Need

It might seem that persistently high unemployment rates over the past few years have rendered moot the debate over whether or not the United States really “needs” the highly skilled foreign workers who come here on H-1B temporary visas.  But the demand for H-1B workers still far outstrips the current cap of only 65,000 new H-1B visas that can be issued each year.  In fact, from fiscal year 1997 to 2011, employers exhausted this quota before the fiscal year was over (except from 2001 to 2003, when the ceiling was temporarily increased).  As a number of studies make clear, the presence in a company of highly skilled foreign workers whose abilities and talents complement those of native-born workers actually creates new employment opportunities for American workers.  Yet the arbitrary numerical limits placed on H-1Bs are incapable of responding to the changing demand for H-1B workers.  This is unfortunate, given that the international competitiveness of the U.S. economy will continue to depend heavily on the contributions of H-1B professionals and other high-skilled workers from abroad for many decades to come. Read more...

Published On: Wed, Mar 30, 2011 | Download File

Statistical Hot Air: FAIR’s USA Report Lacks Credibility

Many politicians who champion the deport-them-all approach to unauthorized immigrants have been relying upon a bloated and deeply distorted report issued by the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) in July 2010.  That report, The Fiscal Burden of Illegal Immigration on United States Taxpayers, is not a credible source of data, yet its numbers have been cited repeatedly in this year’s debates over immigration legislation in the states.  The report relies upon flawed and empirically baseless assumptions to inflate its estimate of the costs which unauthorized immigrants impose on federal, state, and local governments.  Much of what FAIR counts as the cost of unauthorized immigration is actually the cost of education and healthcare for U.S.-citizen children.  In fact, over half of FAIR’s cost estimate consists of educational and healthcare expenditures for the children of unauthorized immigrants, of whom nearly three-quarters are native-born U.S. citizens.  These native-born children are counted as a “cost” of illegal immigration if they are under 18, but as U.S. citizens if they are working, taxpaying adults.  In its rush to place a price tag on unauthorized immigrants, FAIR is unable to see that investing in children today pays off economically tomorrow.  FAIR also neglects to mention the enormous fiscal and economic costs that would be incurred by attempting to remove unauthorized immigrants from the United States.  As the negative impact of anti-immigrant legislation on the fiscal bottom-line becomes more apparent, many taxpayers may begin to see that the “costs” cited by FAIR do not tell the whole story. Read more...

Published On: Tue, Mar 29, 2011 | Download File

Employment-Based Immigration to the United States: A Fact Sheet

U.S. law provides employers with several limited ways to bring foreign workers into the U.S. on a temporary or permanent basis. Employment-based immigration visa categories generally have limited and static numerical caps. In addition, before petitioning for a foreign worker, an employer is often required to obtain certification from the Department of Labor (DOL) that there are no U.S. workers available, willing, and qualified to fill the position at a wage that is equal to or greater than the prevailing wage generally paid for that occupation in the geographic area where the position is located. The purpose of this restriction is to demonstrate that the admission and hiring of foreign workers will not adversely affect the job opportunities, wages, and working conditions of U.S. workers.    Read more...

Published On: Tue, Mar 29, 2011 | Download File

The Unauthorized Population Today

Number Holds Steady at 11 million, Three-Fifths Have Been Here More Than a Decade

Recent estimates from the Pew Hispanic Center and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) indicate that the number of unauthorized immigrants in the United States has remained unchanged at roughly 11 million since 2009.  This comes after a two-year decline of approximately one million that corresponded closely to the most recent recession, which ran from December 2007 to June 2009.  Despite that decline, the new data make clear that the current population of unauthorized immigrants is very much part of the social and economic fabric of the country.  Three-fifths of unauthorized immigrants have been in the United States for more than a decade.  Unauthorized immigrants comprise more than one-quarter of the foreign-born population and roughly 1-in-20 workers.  Approximately 4.5 million native-born U.S.-citizen children have at least one unauthorized parent.  While the largest numbers of unauthorized immigrants are concentrated in California and Texas, there also are sizable unauthorized populations in Florida, New York, New Jersey, Illinois, Georgia, North Carolina, and Maryland.  In short, unauthorized immigrants who are already in the country have become integral to U.S. businesses, communities, and families.

The size of the unauthorized population has remained unchanged at roughly 11 million since 2009.Read more...

Published On: Tue, Mar 22, 2011 | Download File

The Racial Blame Game

Immigrants Are Not the Cause of High Unemployment and Low Wages Among Minority Workers

Some observers have suggested that immigrants are to blame for the high unemployment rates and low wages experienced by so many minority workers in the United States.  However, the best available evidence suggests that immigration is not the cause of dismal employment prospects for American minorities.  For instance, cities experiencing the highest levels of immigration tend to have relatively low or average unemployment rates for African Americans.  This should come as no surprise; immigrants go where jobs are more plentiful.  The grim job market which confronts many minority workers is the product of numerous economic and social factors: the decline of factory employment, the deindustrialization of inner cities, racial discrimination, etc.  Immigration plays a very small role.  However, that role is generally positive.  Immigrant workers, consumers, and entrepreneurs help to create jobs and give a slight boost to the wages of the vast majority of native-born workers.  Some unscrupulous employers do exploit undocumented immigrants to the detriment of wages and working conditions for both native-born workers and legal immigrants.  But the most practical solution to this problem is an earned legalization program for undocumented immigrants and stronger worksite enforcement of wage and labor laws.

Immigrants are not the cause of minority unemployment.

Published On: Tue, Mar 01, 2011 | Download File

Mandatory E-Verify without Legalization

Would Hamper Economic Recovery and Cost U.S. Workers Jobs

Since 1986, controlling illegal immigration by regulating who is entitled to work in the United States has been a key component of U.S. immigration policy.   The ritual of showing proof of one’s identity and work authorization and filling out an I-9 form is part of every new hire’s paperwork haze.  Read more...

Published On: Thu, Feb 10, 2011 | Download File