Saturday, April 3, 2010

Student Reflection

by Andrew Piotrowski

All About the Benjamins...

The major complaint that we hear about in today’s forum on undocumented immigration eventually boils down to money, even more than the argument about jobs. As the country slowly comes to realize that these immigrants are not stealing jobs from the American citizenry, but rather contributing the economic structure by fulfilling the demand for unskilled labor, the argument many would launch about immigrants and their employers is refuted. However, many will still argue that the social benefits that we allow access to by undocumented immigrants is costing the country excessive amounts of taxpayer dollars. By looking deeper into this argument instead of simply collecting media soundbytes, we gain a better understanding of the more complicated situation at hand. While certain social services are available to those without a given social security number, such as emergency room care and food stamps, they are still not given every benefit that an American citizen receives. Despite the fact that they are not granted social security benefits, undocumented laborers that are on company payroll have FICA taken out of their paychecks. This may not account for those who are payed “under the table” in cash, but legitimate businesses in the large unskilled labor industries are required by law to remove social security taxes from their employees. It is important to realize that these immigrants contribute to our society in many overlooked ways, and reap fewer benefits than most would assume while paying the same amount that any US citizen would.

Another form of taxes that most would assume go unpaid by the undocumented community are income and state taxes. However, this is once again an incorrect assumption. The I.R.S. has allowed for undocumented immigrants to obtain an individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN), so that they may file tax returns and report their income. This is an important step for any immigrants attempting to assert legitimacy for their residence if they choose to apply for legal citizenship somewhere down the road, and is what ECIRMAC recommends for all of its undocumented clients. While it is estimated that only 6,000,000 undocumented immigrants file income tax returns each year, one must remember that even numerous American citizens evade their taxes. Therefore, it would seem that to criticize the undocumented population for “abusing the system” is unjust at best, and hypocritical at worst. However, as our political discourse in this country continues to detract from intelligent debate to impassioned and biased rhetoric, it should come as no surprise that the ones being scapegoated are those who society attempts to frame as the “outsiders”.


  1. I like how Andrew's two blog posts together show how much immigrants contribute to society while at the same time remaining the targets for the illegal activity of their employers, landlords, etc. It always seems to me that the wrong people are being "criminalized" and punished. Where I live in North Carolina we see this a lot with the chicken plants and other agricultural jobs--undocumented immigrants are actively recruiting by employers.

  2. Here's a link to an interesting study in NC that talks about the economic impact of Latinos (positive and negative). I like the conclusion with that more support (such as linguistically and culturally appropriate business advisory services), the impact would be even more positive!