There’s a lot of debate about immigration these days. Most Americans are coming to understand that the truly critical issue is border security first and foremost, but that doesn’t mean immigration itself isn’t an important issue. This article from AR contributor MS presents some excellent background on some prevalent myths about legal and illegal immigration in the United States.
- Editor (Robert Wallace)
In between homework I’ve been reading a lot about Arizona and immigration to the United States in general. I thought I’d share some of my findings.
1) “Illegal immigrants don’t pay taxes.” Yes, they do.
According to this CBO Report,
“…there are about 12 million unauthorized immigrants in the United States. Federal, state, and local governments spend public funds that benefit those immigrants, and those immigrants pay individual income, sales, and property taxes.”
Many people believe that illegal immigrants always get paid under-the-table cash, but this is simply not true. It is not uncommon to fake the right forms and get actual paychecks, nor is it unusual for employers to look the other way. Putting aside whether or not this behavior is right, it does mean that (not all, but many) illegal immigrants will have money taken out of their paychecks, including sums for Social Security and Medicare–two services they do not have access to.
2) “Illegal immigrant labor boosts our economy.” Actually, illegal immigration is a net cost to state and local governments.
The above CBO report lists multiple reasons for why data on this subject is difficult to acquire and analyze. That being said, it is the most reliable source I’ve been able to find so far, but if anyone has additional verifiable sources, please link me to them.
Anyway, the report concludes overall:
a) State and local governments incur costs for providing services to unauthorized immigrants and have limited options for avoiding or minimizing those costs.
b) The amount that state and local governments spend on services for unauthorized immigrants represents a small percentage of the total amount spent by those governments to provide such services to residents in their jurisdictions.
c) The tax revenues that unauthorized immigrants generate for state and local governments do not offset the total cost of services provided to those immigrants.
d) Federal aid programs offer resources to state and local governments that provide services to unauthorized immigrants, but those funds do not fully cover the costs incurred by those governments.
(I argue, however, that if people are worried about the financial situation of their state–or our country–there are bigger issues at hand. And in my state specifically, I also argue that if Californians are worried about giving out money to those who haven’t earned it, there are much more obvious groups to take aim at. But I digress.)
3) “They should get in line and wait their turn.”
Some people want immigration reform simply because they feel it is unfair that illegal immigrants can break the law and then stay when legal immigrants have gone through the effort to enter the country legitimately. I’m sympathetic to that notion. However for those of you who believe that most illegal immigrants could get in legally if they were more patient, I’d like to draw your attention to our country’s laws regarding legal immigration.
Our country doesn’t allow people to immigrate for any reason. Congress sets a limitation on how many visas can be granted per year, and those visas are granted based on certain priorities.
According to US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), first priority goes to the parents, spouses, and children (under the age of 21) of US citizens. Next, visas are granted to people “who want to become immigrants based on employment or a job offer.” This does not mean that anyone who needs work can obtain a visa. First preference for employment-based visas goes to “aliens with extraordinary abilities, outstanding professors and researchers, and certain multinational executives and managers.” Second preference goes to “members of professions holding an advanced degree or persons of exceptional ability.” After that visas are granted to “skilled Workers, professionals and other qualified workers,” “certain special immigrants including those in religious vocations,” and “employment creation immigrants (investors or entrepreneurs).”
Correct me if you have data otherwise, but I’m fairly sure that most illegal immigrants don’t follow under those types of employment categories.
But there’s more..
USCIS outlines the requirements for becoming a US citizen.
An immigrant may receive citizenship through naturalization only if said immigrant has been a permanent resident of the United States for at least 5 years (3 years if you are the spouse of a US citizen.)
So how does an immigrant become a legal permanent resident? He or she has to get a green card. There are several requirements for obtaining a green card, one of which is to “Be eligible for one of the immigrant categories established in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).” So maybe we should take a look at that Act.
Section 212 of the INA specifies “general classes of aliens ineligible to receive visas and ineligible for admission.” This list includes things you would expect, such as terrorists, people with communicable diseases, etc. The INA also states:
“Any alien who seeks to enter the United States for the purpose of performing skilled or unskilled labor is inadmissible, unless the Secretary of Labor has determined and certified to the Secretary of State and the Attorney General that-
(I) there are not sufficient workers who are able, willing, qualified (or equally qualified in the case of an alien described in clause (ii)) and available at the time of application for a visa and admission to the United States and at the place where the alien is to perform such skilled or unskilled labor, and
(II) the employment of such alien will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of workers in the United States similarly employed.”
If I’m reading this correctly, it seems to indicate that if an immigrant wants to come here to do unskilled work, they will not be able to obtain a visa. The options are to enter illegally or not enter at all. Of course, you can argue that they ought not enter at all, if that’s the case. However just please be aware that saying they ought to come in legitimately is misleading, because, well, they can’t.