Illegal Work Force Can Generate Taxes But Also Has Costs

Illegal work force can generate taxes but also has costs
Opponents: Cheap labor is no bargain

By Paula J. Owen
The Telegram (Worcester, MA), July 5, 2009

Leominster — It seems incongruous to some that immigrants living illegally in this country can get work permits, find jobs and even pay taxes without being deported.

Bob Dane, spokesman for the Washington, D.C.-based Federation for American Immigration Reform, said the problem is unscrupulous employers who provide illegal immigrants with jobs.

'Cheap labor isnt a bargain,' he said. 'Employers costs are transferred to Americans. In Massachusetts, $580 million is spent annually to subsidize immigration.'

FAIR estimates there are 11.6 million illegal immigrants in the United States. The organization doesnt align itself with the camp that contends mass deportation of 12 million illegal immigrants is the answer, but it doesnt believe mass amnesty makes much sense, either. More border patrol agents and interior enforcement are needed, Mr. Dane said, along with increasing document verification 'so we know who is who.'

'For all we know, 20 people could be using your Social Security number right now,' he said.

Even when an immigrant pays taxes, it costs Americans more than the immigrant contributes into the system, according to Mr. Dane.

'Were not soft-hearted on illegals if they pay taxes,' he said. 'Its a down payment on the enormous cost they have on the U.S.'

The largest cost of illegals is K-12 education, totaling $28.6 billion annually, Mr. Dane said. Of that, $12 billion is spent annually to educate illegal alien students and the remainder is to educate U.S.-born children of illegal aliens, who are considered U.S. citizens.

Alicia J. Alvez of Leominster came to the United States illegally 20 years ago. Like many illegal immigrants, she pays taxes with a tax identification number that she obtained from the Internal Revenue Service.

Many illegal immigrants work two or three jobs to survive, Ms. Alvez said. 'You have to work double because they pay you less.'

She, like many others, contends that the United States needs illegal immigrants. 'We are a large part of the work force.'

But according to a report compiled by the Center for Immigration Studies, the number of unemployed Americans with a high school education or less those who compete for employment with illegal immigrants has increased significantly over the past 10 years.

Kirk A. Carter, an immigration lawyer at Fletcher, Tilton & Whipple in Worcester, said obtaining a TIN through the IRS is relatively easy for an illegal immigrant.

'Immigrants have been doing it for years,' he said. 'They use a TIN number like a Social Security number. They pay millions, if not billions, of dollars that is taken from them and put into the Social Security retirement fund that they will never see any money from.'

Peggy Riley, an IRS media relations specialist, said TINs are not valid as IDs outside the tax system because they are strictly for tax processing. Strict standards for identification are not applied when issuing a TIN, she said, and a TIN does not change a persons immigration status or right to work.

Mr. Dane criticized the IRS policy of not checking a persons immigration status when issuing a TIN. 'The IRS is a collection agency and they just want their money,' he said.

While resources are available for enforcing immigration work laws, he added, only employers are targeted and the illegal population remains largely untouched. 'It sends the message it is OK to come and work as long as you dont get caught,' he said. 'Enforcement should target both supply and demand.'