When I have insomnia, I watch the news and news commentaries in a language other than English. Looking at the same object from different angles makes you smarter, I think. So, the less I sleep, the smarter I become, and the smarter you become, indirectly (to a very small extent, I realize).
Early in the morning, there is a long interactive discussion about immigration on Univisión’s “Despierta America “(“Wake up America”) First, comes a badly illustrated, falsely descriptive jeremiad by a Hispanic immigration advocate. He is what I called in academia, a “professional Mexican.” I don’t know what he is getting at. He is not doing anything useful. He only perpetuates a sort of 1970s exploitation narrative that does not even make me feel young. The advocate complains bitterly of course, that today or yesterday, several hundred illegal immigrants, presumably all with a rap-sheet, have been gathered nationwide for deportation. The charming and beautiful anchorpersons play along. Everybody refers to “immigration.” No one ever says, “illegal” immigration or even “undocumented” immigrants. Next comes an immigration lawyer. He takes questions on-air from callers who want help to fix their status as people who entered this country illegally, some, several times. Still, there is no reference to illegal immigration in general; the topic is still simply “immigration.” The show remains on “immigration, “ no qualifier. It makes you wonder if there are any people from Spanish-speaking countries of the Western Hemisphere who ever entered this country legally.
The confusion between immigrant and illegal immigrant in this largest of Spanish-language television networks in the whole world, Univisión, constitutes a massive exercise in collective bad faith. It’s not going to help in the next political stage. No wonder conservative stay pissed off. No wonder their anger at illegal Hispanic immigrants sometimes comes to resemble anger at Hispanics in general.
Speaking of conservatives and of their distaste for illegal immigration, it does not help that they are confused on several important points. The fact that this country does not seem to be able to control its borders, the fact that its official immigration policies do not serve our interests, that’s all bad enough. We, conservatives, don’t need, in addition, to entertain and to propagate false notions of the burden immigrants, legal and illegal impose of us.
First, let me repeat that immigrants earn slightly more money on the average than the native-born. In our economic system, this means straightforwardly that immigrants contribute more, on the average than the native-born. Second, there is a widespread idea that illegal immigrants (illegal) consume government services while they don’t pay taxes. However common this belief, it does not withstand the most superficial examination. Here is why: It’s probably true that illegals avoid paying the federal income tax and also what state income taxes there are. That would be because they fear that filing government paper entails a risk of detection and of deportation. They routinely exaggerate the risk but it’s understandable.
Illegal immigrants however cannot avoid any indirect taxes or most other taxes, be they property taxes (that support schools), sale taxes, or excise taxes, including both federal and state tax on fuels. You might think that’s not much until you remember that 46 or 47 % of Americans do not pay any federal income tax. It’s likely that the % of Americans not paying state income tax is identical or, even higher. Thus, only illegal immigrants who situate themselves somewhere near the top 50% income bracket or within it would have to pay income tax at all if they filed. How many can that be? Think it through, don’t dismiss the thought out of hand.
What am I telling you?
It’s likely that illegal immigrant pay something close to their normal share of all taxes. I mean of the taxes they would have to pay if they were legal immigrants or US citizens. Not worth getting into a tizzy over, I say!
I know I have not dealt with payroll taxes, including taxes that support Social Security and Medicare. It’s likely that, by and large, illegal immigrants don’t pay those either. Reason is fear of detection again (see above). I know what you mean. I am with you. I wish they would pay those, right now, or at least, tomorrow. Please, follow through with this thought also. You will be amazed.
Bad faith, intellectual dishonesty on the one side; utter confusion fed by angry indignation on the other. It does not look good unless some conservatives will come to their senses. (Hint: The Wall Street Journal does a good job on the topic of immigration but it’s doing it so quietly hardly anyone is paying attention.)
PLEASE, THINK OF FORWARDING TO YOUR CONSERVATIVE FRIENDS.
[Editor's note: this essay first appeared on Dr. Delacroix's blog, Facts Matter, on September 28th 2011]