Immigration has been back in the news since the "Minuteman Project" got underway on April 1, 2005 outside Tombstone, Arizona--no, unfortunately the volunteer protest over immigration at the Mexican border is no joking matter. The idea is to have volunteers, many armed, stationed along a 23-mile stretch of Cochise County and stop anyone trying to cross into the U. S.
Presidents Fox and Bush found something to agree on here. Both think the idea is terrible.
Then comes a very interesting report from The New York Times ("Illegal Immigrants Are Bolstering Social Security with Billions," April 5, 2005).
The common yap on the street characterizes Mexican immigrants as people who take advantage of the system here and return nothing in the process. Leaving aside for now the matter of billions paid in sales taxes across the nation, the article filed by Eduardo Porter dismantles common "American wisdom" about working "illegal" immigrants (Can a person really be "illegal"?)
Consider the facts:
*Seven million undocumented workers in the U. S. pay $7 billion annually into Social Security.
*The money paid into the Social Security system by this special class of labor amounts to about 10% of the system's current surplus. You know, the surplus Al Gore wanted to lock up in a box. The same surplus the President says is going away for good and real soon.
*The Social Security Administration factors these dollars into their projections about the future of the program.
*The majority of undocumented workers pay taxes.
*Since the late 1980s when the system began receiving millions of obviously bogus W-2 earnings statements, complete with fake SS numbers, it began holding them in what is called a "earnings suspense file." During the 1990s, $189 billion in wages ended up in this file. In our current decade the file is growing at a rate of over $50 billion annually. In 2002, nine million W-2s with incorrect numbers were filed away accounting for 1.5% of total reported earnings for the entire nation.
*Social Security Administration officials estimate that approximately 75% of undocumented workers pay payroll taxes.
*According to the Government Accountability Office (GOA), of the bogus W-2s, 17% arrived from restaurants, 10% from construction companies and 7% from farm operations.
*Actuaries at Social Security report that if immigration rose to 1.3 million persons annually instead of the current 900,000, the benefit to the system would be half a trillion dollars over the next 75 years.
One last note. Undocumented workers who pay into the Social Security System will never receive any financial benefit from Social Security. Unlike the funds I contribute, their contributions are "free" to the system.
Reality is often far from what it appears.