Immigrants and Taxes: Endless Debate

The American Immigration Lawyers Association released an excellent piece on the above referenced topic. Please read and let me know your thoughts. Let the debate begin!
America’s economy is flailing, and 78 million baby boomers are nearing
retirement, at which point they will leave the workforce to receive massive
amounts of Social Security Administration (SSA) benefits. In a time of major
economic downturn, the unlikely “saving grace” is the immigrant population,
which pays into the Social Security system without collecting benefits.

Undocumented immigrants in the U.S. comprise approximately 5 percent of the
workforce. Contrary to popular belief, between one-half and three-quarters of
undocumented immigrants pay federal and state income taxes, Social Security
and Medicare taxes – in addition to sales and property taxes. As of October
2005, the SSA concluded that undocumented immigrants contributed an
estimated $520 billion to the Social Security system – a figure that would
increase exponentially if all of these immigrants were required to earn their legal
status and contribute their share.

Despite the absence of progressive immigration policy reform, the tax
contributions of immigrants are very evident. Even at the state level,
undocumented immigrants still pay more in taxes than they use in public

• The Texas State Comptroller determined in a 2006 study that
undocumented immigrants produced $1.58 billion in state revenues,
exceeding the $1.16 billion they received in state services.

• The Oregon Center for Public Policy in 2007 estimated that
undocumented immigrants pay state income, excise, property taxes,
federal Social Security and Medicare taxes totaling between “$134 million
to $187 million annually.” Meanwhile, Oregon employers paid an
estimated $97 million to $136 million annually on behalf of their
undocumented workers.

• The Iowa Policy Project determined that “undocumented immigrants pay
an estimated aggregate amount of $40 million to $62 million in state taxes
each year.” Immigrants also make tax contributions through their
enormous purchasing power. In a 2002 study by the Center for Urban
Economic Development at the University of Chicago, researchers found
that undocumented immigrants in the Chicago metro area spent $2.81
billion in 2001 – spending which “sustained 31,908 jobs in the local
As the baby boomers creep towards retirement and begin to strain the SSA,
immigrants will be subsidizing Social Security benefits, making retirement
possible for millions of Americans. By requiring the undocumented to come out
of the shadows and earn legal status, immigrants will not only contribute by
paying taxes, but will play a hefty role in shoring up the teetering Social Security
system, and provide a fiscal windfall to U.S. taxpayers.