Nearly everyone agrees that our immigration system is badly broken and in urgent need of reform. Under the existing system people are dying at the border, immigrants are living and working in abject conditions, families trying to reunite legally are separated for many years, employers are unable to hire the workers that they need, U.S. workers suffer from the unlevel playing field shared with exploited immigrant workers, and law‐abiding U.S. employers are in unfair competition with unscrupulous employers who increase profits by hiring cheap and vulnerable labor. Meanwhile, the United States continues to spend billions of dollars on enforcing these broken laws.
The U.S. Census Bureau recently released data on the Latino population of the United States that underscores the extent to which the immigrant experience is embedded in the social (and political) fabric of the United States. The political significance of these statistics is apparent in the most recent IPC Fact Check. Latinos comprise the fastest-growing group of voters in the United States. The number of naturalized U.S. citizens is increasing rapidly and the electoral clout of New American voters who share a direct, personal connection to the immigrant experience—that is, naturalized citizens and the U.S.-born children of immigrants—is on the rise.
As health care bills make their way through Congress, lawmakers are debating whether or not to include overly burdensome citizenship verification requirements to ensure that unauthorized immigrants do not have access to health insurance. However, past attempts to implement these kinds of additional measures have prevented U.S. citizens and legal immigrants from receiving health care, while uncovering very few instances of unauthorized immigrants trying to abuse the system. In fact, research shows that unauthorized immigrants do not come to the United States for health care benefits or any other public services for which they are not eligible. These additional measures threaten to ensnare far more citizens than unauthorized immigrants and add unnecessary costs to health care reform.
Citizenship Day (September 17) is an appropriate time to take stock of the growing number of U.S. citizens who are immigrants to this country—or who are the children of immigrants. Roughly one-in-seventeen U.S. citizens are foreign-born, and tens of millions of native-born U.S. citizens have immigrant parents. This demographic reality has important political ramifications. A rising share of the U.S. electorate has a direct personal connection to the immigrant experience, and is unlikely to be favorably swayed by politicians who employ anti-immigrant rhetoric to mobilize supporters. This is particularly true among the two fastest-growing groups of voters in the nation: Latinos and Asians. The majority of Latinos and Asians are either immigrants or the children of immigrants, and they comprised one out of every ten voters in the 2008 election.
At a time of economic recession, high unemployment, and budget deficits, policymakers and the public are concerned about the impact of immigration—especially unauthorized immigration—on state and local economies. In particular, there is debate over whether or not unauthorized immigrants are a drain on the budgets of state and local governments because of the public services they utilize. Accurately assessing the costs and contributions of immigrants, particularly unauthorized immigrants, is a challenge, but research shows that roughly one-half of unauthorized immigrants pay federal and state income taxes, Social Security taxes, and Medicare taxes. Moreover, all immigrants (legal and unauthorized) pay sales taxes (when they buy anything at a store, for instance) and property taxes (even if they rent housing). Below is a survey of a number of state studies which have found that immigrants in general—and the unauthorized specifically—contribute to the public treasuries and economies of many states and localities.
A key part of comprehensive immigration reform will no doubt be the implementation of an electronic employment-verification system (EEVS). Since EEVS affects every single person working in the United States—immigrants and citizens alike—is it important to consider several key areas that must be addressed to make such a system workable and effective.
The current immigration system is outdated and broken. Americans are justifiably frustrated and angry. The U.S. needs a fair, practical solution that addresses the underlying causes of undocumented immigration and creates a new, national legal immigration system for the 21st century.
As policymakers debate the scope and form of the health care reform package now taking shape in Congress, it is important to understand the role of immigrant participation in the current health care system. Misconceptions about immigrants and their participation in our health care system abound, the facts demonstrate that immigrants can and should contribute to any new program. It is both good policy and common sense to treat access to health insurance for all as an investment in the nation’s public health. Categorical exclusions of any kind—whether of immigrants, redheads, or cat owners—are a mistake. It makes more sense to allow everyone to buy affordable health care.
There is a great deal of confusion about Individual Tax Identification Numbers (ITINs), a tool used by the IRS to ensure that people pay taxes even if they don't have a Social Security number. Despite the fact that ITINs have no bearing on legal status, some people point to the ITIN program as some type of benefit that gives quasi-legal status to people in the U.S. illegally. This fact sheet explains what ITINs are, who has them, and the purposes for which they are used.