Tuesday, August 20, 2013

No Taxation Without Representation for Undocumented Immigrants

The United States government has been making billions of dollars from undocumented immigrants for decades.
Photo by Getty
Chicago.- For over 20 years, the Social Security Administration (SSA) has been making billions of dollars from unclaimed taxes paid by illegal immigrants. This money sits in a fund that no politician likes to talk about.

Since most undocumented immigrants don't have a social security
card, a vital document used to prove legality and pay taxes,  they buy counterfeit cards with made up numbers. You can get these forged cards clandestinely in all corners of the  country, and when  Social Security gets these taxes, the agency doesn't reject them; instead, it sends them to the “earnings suspense file,” a fund into which illegal immigrant workers have been paying an average of $70 BILLIONS a year.

The suspense file had an incredible $993 billion as of 2009, according to a report by the Inspector General of the Social Security Administration. The analysis found that undocumented workers and their employers paid $13 billion in payroll taxes in 2010. Interestingly, The New York Times reported in 2005, “the money paid by illegal workers and their employers is factored into all the Social Security Administration's projections.”

As comprehensive immigration reform passed by the Senate sits in the Republican-controlled  Untied States House of Representatives, it is becoming harder for its most vociferous opponents, like Jeff Sessions (R-Ala), and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) to find excuses to submit the bill to a vote.

Recently, the Super PAC (political action committee) "Republicans for Immigration Reform," chaired by Carlos Gutierrez, former Secretary of Commerce under President George W. Bush,  and supported by over 100 influential Republican members, sent a letter to Congress Republicans, urging them to fix the immigration system, and to grant legal status to undocumented immigrants.

The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, (ITEP), says that “in the public debates over federal immigration reform, much has been made of the argument that undocumented immigrants would be a drain on federal, state and local government resources if granted legal status. But it is also true that the 11.2 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States are already taxpayers.” According to ITEP estimates, in 2010, undocumented immigrants paid $10.6 billion in state and local taxes around the country, and these contributions represented about 6.4 percent of the country's earnings. “Allowing undocumented immigrants to work in the United States," ITEP explains, " would increase its state and local tax contributions by an estimated $2 billion a year.”

But all of these facts, which very unlikely go unnoticed by opponents of immigration reform, are never talking points in the speeches of the mega right-wingers in Congress. Instead, they have run uncounted xenophobic election campaigns around the country that have humiliated immigrants for just too long.

Interestingly, undocumented immigrants could adopt the same phrase that the 13 colonies and Boston's Tea Party  used to oppose British rule in the late 1700s:  “No taxation without representation.” Unfortunately, the term "Tea Party" has been taken hostage by the extreme right of the Republican Party, and this tiny but vociferous group has also taken the government hostage, holding legislation that is only the fairest solution that is out there right now.

“Don't we agree, at least all of us, that we need to address this issue?,” Senator John McCain told an audience during a Town Hall meeting in Tucson, Arizona “We have an unacceptable situation as it is today [a broken immigration system], and we need to all work together no matter where you are in the political spectrum, to try to resolve the issue.” Senator McCain cited the Congressional Budget Office, which estimates that “this legislation will reduce the budget deficit by $850 billion over the next 20 years. From these funds, $300 billion would go to to the Social Security fund over the next 10 years... if the bill was passed.”

If immigration fails to pass this year, there is little chance that the issue will be up for debate in 2014, because of midterm elections. But not taking action equals to a de facto amnesty, and it will linger the suffering of the people affected by this phenomenon, including me.

“We now have, for better or for worse, 11 million [immigrants],” McCain warned. “The large majority of them have been here for a long time. I don't think that we're gonna round up 11 million people and send them back to wherever they came from.” McCain boasted that the bill sitting in the House of Representatives has “the broadest coalition I've ever seen in anything I've done in legislation. The Chamber of Commerce, the AFL-CIO (American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations), the evangelicals, the Catholic Church, and the high tech community.” It is now up to the Republicans in the House to do their job. 

Link to Spanish version