Immigration is a hotly debated subject with a slew of arguments but experts have debunked some of the myths surrounding it. On Thursday, President Barack Obama utilized the powers of his office to mold the immigration system of the nation. He explained that his administration would overhaul the immigration system and explained who it was projected to affect and not affect.
He addressed the nation from the East Room of the White House appealing to the nation’s compassion that deporting millions of illegal immigrants is not “who we are.” Obama quoted scripture stating that we could not oppress strangers, seeing as how all Americans once were strangers. Shielding millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation and providing them with work visas brings the scope of presidential authority under further scrutiny.
This decision by Obama has raised a myriad of constitutional and legal questions. Republicans have accused him of imperial overreach. Democrats are worried over the future fallout from these actions.
On Thursday night, the White House released a 33 page memo from the Justice Department detailing the legalities of the executive order. Internal legal documents are rarely disclosed to the public. According to legal experts, Obama has “virtually unfettered prosecutorial discretion” as chief executive.
Obama’s approach has not been welcomed with open arms by the country. It has been a tough sell, especially now with the new Republican controlled Congress. Many arguments have been placed on the table but some experts do agree that some of the arguments are based on misinformation. Many myths that need to be debunked exist in regards to immigration and its effect on the economy.
Many claim, as migrant workers, illegals do not pay taxes. According to the Institute of Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) migrants have paid approximately $10.6 billion towards state and local taxes in 2010 alone. While actual contributions vary by state, it is estimated on average the immigrants pay roughly 6.4% of their income in state and local taxes. IRS figures indicated back in 2007 50-75% of about 11 million migrant workers filed and paid income taxes each year.
Claims are also made that undocumented immigrants do not pay into Social Security. The Social Security Administration (SSA) reported that immigrants who are not even eligible for benefits have paid a staggering $100 billion into the fund over the last decade. On average, they are paying $15 billion a year per Stephen Goss, chief actuary of the SSA. Social Security would have entered a constant shortfall of tax revenue to cover payouts without the contribution of millions of undocumented workers.
Another argument would be that illegals place a burden on the American system. That simply is not the case when they do not qualify for government assistance programs such as food stamps, welfare, and Medicaid among others. One of the prerequisites of such programs is proof of legal immigration status and per the 1996 welfare law; even legal immigrants do not qualify to receive benefits until they have lived in the US for five years.
One loophole however would be the children of illegal immigrants. Oftentimes referred to as “anchor babies”, the children do qualify for social benefits. They also qualify for schooling as well as emergency medical care.
A report of the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007 concluded that proper means towards legalization for immigrants would increase revenue by a whopping $48 billion. There would be a $23 billion increase in costs for the use of public services but still would produce $25 billion in surplus for government coffers debunking several myths on immigration as reported by the Congressional Budget Office.
By Stevenson Benoit
Photo by SEIU – Flickr License