Economic and social truths about immigrants
Miguel is an ex-coworker who accepted an interview with me to explain better the characteristics of people who were brought to the U.S when they were children. At the beginning of the interview, Miguel looked at me and asked me, "why do you care so much about the situation of undocumented immigrants here in the U.S?" I answered back because my dad and I come to this country with the same dreams that every immigrant have. Even though we have legal status in the country, I can relate to the issues of the undocumented community here. Also, I feel I owe it to my community to stand up for them and use my privileges to help them. The Latino community needs people to run the extra mile in life; people who are willing to work significantly hard so the new generation of Latinxs can be inspired and believe in themselves. I believe Miguel is one of those people. He is from Mexico and was brought to the United States when he was two years old. He is originally from Cheran, Michoacan. Back in the '90s, Michoacan faced an alarming increase in crime. The Cartel of Michoacan used to rule the city, while politicians and police officers did not do anything to stop them. The community of Michoacan got tired of all of them and decided to get rid of all, politicians, police, and the cartel, and take control over the city. Now they have a near zero percent crime rate. However, the situation back then was different for Miguel's mom, who decided to come to the U.S with her 2-year-old son, more than twenty years ago.
I asked Miguel when he noticed that he does not have American citizenship? Miguel told me that when he turned twelve years old, he started noticing that his mom couldn't do "stuff" that other moms could. It was hard for his mom to get appointments at a doctor's office due to her lack of English skills and also because they did not have health insurance. He recalled that it was difficult for him because he was the one who had to translate everything. Suddenly, he had to stop being a child and had to mature sooner than other kids to be able to help his mom. He said, "That's the moment when you realize that you are not from this country." I asked him how he felt about that? Miguel answered that even though it was difficult, he felt happy "...because as he grows up, he realizes the value of his own culture". He emphasizes that the U.S is made up of people from all different countries and that's what creates its beauty. However, at the same time, he doesn't feel he belongs wholly to either country.
One of the things that most impacted me about my interview with Miguel was that he started working at twelve years old doing manual labor with his dad. He worked in landscaping, delivered newspapers, worked in a food store, distributed supplies in a warehouse, cleaned facilities, worked in construction, and now works in a restaurant as a server. One can notice that Miguel, now being twenty-five years old, has worked many jobs, most of them very physical. However, he is proud of all the work that he has done. Most of the time, immigrants are people who want to work, and most of them are ready to do the hardest jobs, the ones that no one else wants.
However, the recent rhetoric about immigration tells us a story about immigrants not paying taxes, bringing crime, and stealing jobs from hard-working Americans. Most unauthorized immigrants pay taxes like every other person in the United States. However, they don't get benefits from it. They are not eligible for benefits like the earned income tax credit, nor Social Security or Medicare. The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, a Washington, DC think tank, says that about half of undocumented workers in the United States pay income taxes (Vox).
It is a common assumption to believe that immigrants do not pay anything for being here and that they do not contribute anything to the economy. However, data collected by the IRS shows that immigrants pay about $9 billion in payroll taxes annually. Also, the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy shows that undocumented workers fund many public schools and local government services. They add up to about $10.6 billion in state and local taxes. A big portion of the tax money from the undocumented immigrants goes to the retirement trust fund at the Social Security Administration. This organization estimates that undocumented workers contributed $13 billion in one year (Vox). Immigrants support the social security and Medicare system because they can’t use it. Therefore, all that extra money provided by them benefit everyone but the undocumented workers.
Additionally, immigrants bring with themselves their cultural backgrounds and in the long term that evolves into businesses and creates new sources of income that the whole economy benefits. One can see different examples of that just by walking around the streets; Mexican restaurants provide jobs for their own people and also to Americans. Real estate agents who speak Spanish and/or translators are every time more in demand because more immigrants need their services. Then it is not true that immigrants are stealing jobs; they are producing new jobs and filling a demand for workers by many industries like the farm industry, which would not survive without the work of immigrants. The American Farm Bureau Federation explains that at least 50 to 70% of laborers in the country today are unauthorized farmers. If this industry loses access to all undocumented workers, their outputs would fall by $30 to $60 billion. Most U.S citizens don't want to do farm jobs because they consider them socially denigrating and dangerous. Immigrants are not the problem; the real issue is the idea that portrays immigrants as the enemy.
Another stereotype that has been used against immigrants is assuming that most undocumented immigrants are dangerous for American society. However, studies conducted in the U.S by the libertarian Cato Institute, show that U.S citizens create the highest rate of criminality. Undocumented immigrants have committed crimes, but not to the level of being considered a national threat. There are indeed issues regarding public safety and the total rate of criminality, but this is not an issue that can only be blamed on immigrants.
America needs immigrants. Legal immigration benefits everybody, and it should be the goal for immigration policy to make this process accessible for people who want to work hard and desire to fulfill industries with shortages of labor. To help immigrants in this country and also improve the economy, it is necessary to clear paths towards citizenship for people who have been living in this country for a long time and have shown their love for this country. If an individual shows no criminal record, pays taxes, and does a job that Americans do not want to do, they should be considered to receive work permits. A person who has worked for several years in an industry even without work authorization has expertise in that area, and it would be a waste of human capital to just deport them. In addition, deporting someone who is a mother or father here would just break more families, affecting ultimately our society and creating even more divisions.
Campbell, Alexia Fernández. “Undocumented Immigrants Pay Taxes Too. Here's How They Do It.” Vox, Vox, 17 Apr. 2017, www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2017/4/17/15290950/undocumented-immigrants-file-tax-returns.
“Economic Impact of Immigration.” American Farm Bureau Federation - The Voice of Agriculture, www.fb.org/issues/immigration-reform/agriculture-labor-reform/economic-impact-of-immigration.
Ingraham, Christopher. “Two Charts Demolish the Notion That Immigrants Here Illegally Commit More Crime.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 19 June 2018, www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2018/06/19/two-charts-demolish-the-notion-that-immigrants-here-illegally-commit-more-crime/?utm_term=.d1b9007fcf03.
Dudley, Mary Jo. “These U.S. Industries Can't Work without Illegal Immigrants.” CBS News, CBS Interactive, www.cbsnews.com/news/illegal-immigrants-us-jobs-economy-farm-workers-taxes/.