In the continued debate over immigration, some proponents of a new amnesty program make an economic argument: By legalizing illegal immigrants who have come to the U.S. to work, a torrent of new tax revenue will flow into government coffers, they say.
But a study by the Public Policy Institute of California released Tuesday night says that when it comes to paying taxes, illegal immigrants are already doing their share.
“Illegal immigrants already pay sales taxes and many contribute to Social Security,” according to a PPIC study based on data from the PPIC’s New Immigrant Survey. It draws on information from a sample of former illegal immigrants who became legal permanent residents in 2003.
“The vast majority of illegal immigrants already file federal tax returns,” a report summary says.
“In the year before acquiring legal status, 87 percent of those who had crossed the border illegally and 91 percent of those who had overstayed their visas filed federal returns.”
The study also suggests that a legalization program would provide only limited upward economic mobility for illegal immigrants. There are perhaps 12 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. – 2.7 million in California – and most have few jobs skills, the report summary says. As a result, their prospects don’t improve all that much when they get a green card, the report summary says.
“Dishwashers are most likely to move into other low-paying jobs in food service or become janitors after getting a green card,” the summary says. “Child care workers who moved to new jobs are likely to become maids or housekeepers.”
At least in the short haul, “a legalization program is unlikely to lead to dramatic changes in the labor market,” said report co-author Laura Hill summarized.