Beth Werlin, Deputy Legal Director for the American Immigration Council, discusses the recent...
Immigrants' ledger has two sides
Published on Sat, Aug 06, 2011
As Hazleton's ill-considered anti-immigration ordinance migrates to the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals for further arguments, it continues to be based partially on a false premise.
The ordinance results partially from the notion that illegal immigrants are an economic drain and a service burden on the government.
That view, however, is rooted in only one side of the ledger. An analysis by the Immigration Policy Center recently detailed how tax-paying illegal immigrants bolster government treasuries.
In Pennsylvania alone, the analysis found, families headed by illegal immigrants pay $135 million a year in state and local taxes - nearly $35 million in state and local wage and income taxes, more than $7 million in property taxes and more than $81 million in sales taxes.
The analysis does not count another substantial contribution. The national debate over "entitlement" reform usually fails to note the huge surplus for Social Security generated by illegal immigrants. Earlier this year Stephen Goss, chief actuary for Social Security, estimated that illegal immigrant workers contribute about $12 billion a year to the trust fund.
By law illegal immigrants may not collect Social Security benefits, so their contributions are a net gain. The contribution is even more significant because of demographics: illegal immigrants generally are much younger than the average American worker.
None of that diminishes the need for rational immigration reform at the federal level. But it does call for greater context to the debate.
Published in the The Times-Tribune | Read Article