Tax Analysts Blog

Immigrants Continue to Be Good for Us

Posted on Mar 16, 2016
If you're following the presidential campaigns, you know that immigration is the great polarizing issue in American politics. It has dominated public discussion more than any other controversial topic, including abortion, guns, and gay marriage. Conservatives are particularly vexed over the issue. Few have empathy for people who are living in the country illegally. They oppose amnesty, pathways to citizenship, and open borders. They talk of building walls to keep people from entering the country illegally. They have gone so far as to shun refugees from war zones.

The anti-immigrant mood is spurred by arguments that immigrants are committing crimes, devouring welfare (while taking our jobs), and refusing to learn English. Most of these assertions are untrue. Of course, there are valid arguments for limiting illegal immigration. First, it's illegal, which should mean something in a nation of laws. Second, all nations must be able to control their borders.

I happen to think immigrants are good for the United States. Immigrants throughout American history have come here to work hard and provide for their families. They are here for the economic opportunity. They are here for the American dream. Immigrants also happen to be good for state governments' bottom line.

In a report, the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy says immigrants who entered the country illegally paid roughly $11.6 billion in state and local taxes in 2013. The report says these immigrants paid about $2 million in Montana and more than $3.6 billion in California. The point is that immigrants are contributing to the public fisc. They are working.

More significantly, the institute found that if the millions of immigrants who entered the country illegally were granted legal status, the taxes they would pay would increase by about $2.1 billion. I have written about this before. Legal status requires some kind of amnesty or forgiveness. Before you shrug that off, remember that their crime is wanting to be us. Also, and more practically, these 11 million immigrants are not leaving, and there is no mechanism for getting them out. They are cutting our grass, cleaning our houses, and working on our farms. They are also contributing to financing our government. I think that is a good thing.

Read Comments (1)

AMTbuffMar 16, 2016

Each country should choose who to admit from among a pool of applicants, then
provide safe transportation to those admitted. Everyone else should stay at

Allowing a life-threatening obstacle course to be the sole screening and
throttling device is evil. I can't understand why good people support that
status quo.

Forcefully discouraging illegal immigration while supporting legal immigration
is the only moral policy.

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