Saturday, April 19, 2008

The Economics and Politics of Immigration

Here's and interesting article that appeared on Fark the other day. The subject was illegal immigration and the article talked about the money which illegals pay into the government in Social Security and payroll taxes. There was also another pretty good article linked in the comments section on the costs of illegal immigration in terms of crime and education costs.

I personally felt that the second article (first published in Investor's Business Daily and republished on CNN Money) had a kind of alarmist/sensationalistic tone but that could also be that being of Mexican-American descent, I tend feel less sympathetic to anti-immigration arguments. Still it's interesting to take a look at the numbers. They estimate that illegal immigration costs the country $3.9 billion in bilingual education costs, $1.5 billion in costs of incarcerating illegal alien criminals. It also tells us that,
"The economic burden they impose on victims, including loss of income and property, uncompensated hospital bills, and emotional pain and suffering, has been estimated at $1.6 million per property and assault crime offender," [Edwin S. Rubenstein, the author of the study quoted in the article] found.
but does not give a total cost for the country of this economic burden. The article also tells us that
Washington has been paralyzed for many years on immigration policies because advocates of restricted immigration are routinely accused of nativism and racism.
Yeah and no one ever talks about an invasion by foreigners who won't learn English and assimilate into this country and suggests that we keep them out by doing something drastic like building a wall at our border.

The other article which was from Associated Press and published on the Houston Chronicle website gave a more matter of fact presentation of its numbers:
The Social Security Administration estimates that about three-quarters of illegal workers pay taxes that contribute to the overall solvency of Social Security and Medicare.

The agency estimates that for 2005, the last year for which figures are available, about $9 billion in taxes was paid on about $75 billion in wages from people who filed W-2 forms with incorrect or mismatched data, which would include illegal immigrants who drew paychecks under fake names and Social Security numbers.

The article also explains how illegal immigrants can go about filing their taxes without getting themselves deported and points out that many illegals never collect money from the Social Security system which they are paying into.

My own personal opinion on the subject is that it simply isn't possible (or even desirable) to deport 12 million illegal aliens so we need to find a way to bring them into our society. President Bush and Senator John McCain actually had a pretty good plan for doing just that but backed down because of opposition from their own party. It's a shame—especially given the very generous amnesty for illegals which was passed in the 80s by Ronald Reagan.

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