It’s a story with which we’re all too familiar.
It’s breakfast time. I cheerily greet my elderly patient who is in his hospital bed, enjoying French toast and turkey bacon. A barking newscaster is on his television. My patient concurs with the talking head.
“Those illegals,” he complains indignantly, using the term as a pejorative. “They’re coming into this country, getting a free ride. Using our welfare. Not paying taxes. It’s socialism.”
The irony does not escape me that this gentleman is using socialized medicine to pay for his stay and that he receives a social security check each month. In addition to his income and healthcare, he uses social services like roads, libraries, the fire department, the police department, and the military–not to mention the schooling his children received. I continue to care for him, unable to voice my disagreement, though he’s wrong.
Undocumented immigrants do pay taxes.
According to the Institute of Taxation and Economic Policy, approximately half of undocumented workers in the United States file income tax returns. In fact, 4.4 million tax returns per year come from folks without a social security number, to the tune of $23.6 billion dollars annually. They pay into programs like social security and medicare without using them. Undocumented workers do this so that they can create a paper trail in the hope of one day obtaining legal status.
Aside from income tax, undocumented people pay billions of dollars in sales and property tax through rent and everyday expenses.
Now let’s talk about legal immigrants, a subject close to my heart. You see, for six years, I was a legal immigrant to the UK. I obtained a work visa because I am a highly specialized healthcare practitioner. I moved to the UK to put my husband through an expensive PhD. Our visas came with the restriction, “No recourse to public funds,” which we found to be fair as I was gainfully employed and had no intention of receiving welfare benefits.
We had always rented our accommodation, since our immigrant status financially prohibited us from easily purchasing a home. We were responsible for British sales tax, income tax, healthcare tax, and property tax. Renting brought wealth to the local economy–specifically our English landlord. We paid an international tuition rate and visa fees totaling some $60,000. Being immigrants never made us rich or lazy.
And yet, I keep seeing a false narrative in our society that says immigrants leech off of the welfare system. This untruth is so ingrained that many people harbor extreme resentment toward immigrants, to the point of wishing them dead.
There is, in fact, a segment of society who skirts taxation every way possible. Guess who? Rich people and corporations. Rich people who can afford tax lawyers to help them navigate bogus write-offs. Corporations who receive tax relief in the name of “trickle down economics” (which doesn’t work, FYI.)
I myself am a middle class person, surviving paycheck to paycheck and trying to make an honest living for my family of four. I understand the immense pressure most people are under just to get by. College tuition is at an all time high, wages are stagnant, the property market is ridiculous. It’s getting harder for the middle class to make ends meet. But this is not because of immigrants.
It’s because of corporate greed that continues to obliterate the middle class.
It’s because of the housing collapse, secondary to irresponsible financial loopholes of the early 2000s.
It’s because of skyrocketing tuition rates from which many of us will never recover thanks to student loans.
Right now, the power is in the hands of rich corporations. They want us to keep blaming immigrants for the financial peril they’ve caused the middle class. It’s a red herring they’ve always used to distract us from their own cupidity.
Resist this false narrative. Share the truth.