Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Cuaderno Latinoamericano: Exploding the Cost/Benefits Myth of Illegal Immigrants and the US Economy - The Case of Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid - Eduardo Porter has written an excellent, revelatory article in the New York Times about the real contributions Illegal Immigrants make the the Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid programs in the United States and the exploitation that they face in never being able to benefit from their contributions. For instance, read this:

Since illegally crossing the Mexican border into the United States six years ago, Ángel Martínez has done backbreaking work, harvesting asparagus, pruning grapevines and picking the ripe fruit. More recently, he has also washed trucks, often working as much as 70 hours a week, earning $8.50 to $12.75 an hour.

Not surprisingly, Mr. Martínez, 28, has not given much thought to Social Security's long-term financial problems. But Mr. Martínez - who comes from the state of Oaxaca in southern Mexico and hiked for two days through the desert to enter the United States near Tecate, some 20 miles east of Tijuana - contributes more than most Americans to the solvency of the nation's public retirement system.

Last year, Mr. Martínez paid about $2,000 toward Social Security and $450 for Medicare through payroll taxes withheld from his wages. Yet unlike most Americans, who will receive some form of a public pension in retirement and will be eligible for Medicare as soon as they turn 65, Mr. Martínez is not entitled to benefits.

He belongs to a big club. As the debate over Social Security heats up, the estimated seven million or so illegal immigrant workers in the United States are now providing the system with a subsidy of as much as $7 billion a year.
How is this possible, you might ask? Well, employers demand that potential employees provide a Social Security number to prove that they can work legally in the United States. Then, without verifying or checking the accuracy of these Social Security numbers, many of which are fraudulent, employers deduct payroll taxes from the earning of these employees and turn this over, along with their own matching contributions, to the U.S. Government. This money just sits there, adding to the available pool of resources that help to keep Social Security and Medicaid/Medicare solvent. Current and future retirees in the United States will benefit from the contributions that these illegal immigrants make to the system by their hard work, and these illegal immigrants will never see a dime of their contributions in their own retirement.

Not only does this demolish the claim by the anti-immigrant, nativist crowd that illegal immigrants are leeches on the U.S. welfare state, but it also shows, once again, the double exploitation illegal migrants face in our country. They contribute mightily to the local, state, and federal treasuries of the United States by way of paying taxes (and not only payroll taxes, but also sales taxes, and property taxes via rents), but they are facing efforts to exclude them from receiving the benefits that their tax contributions have earned them.

The next time you hear anti-immigrant, pro-Minutemen, xenophobic blowhards bring out this reason to justify their border vigilantism, feel free to mention this little fact to them.

Read Porter's whole article for the full extent and ramifications of this reality. It will give you a new appreciation for the value of the illegal immigrant.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

In fairness and truth we must also remember the following points, keeping in mind that these immigrants do work hard and are underpaid... A) These immigrants your speaking of are here illegally and are using fake social security numbers. I find it very hard to be compassionate for someone who knowingly and so blatently violates our laws and couldnt care less about it. If they want to receive these benifits (which are nothing to brag about in anyones eyes) then they should come here legaly as do many thousands of other immigrants. B) A large amount of wages that these illegal immigrants earn are sent back home to their families. These funds when converted to thier currency allow their families to be very wealthy. C) The New York Times is one of the most liberal papers in the country and has to be read with very little regard.