Challenging Myths about Immigrants and Immigration: A Seven-Part Series

Immigrants and immigration-related identities are among the many important stories of faculty, staff, and students in our diverse MC community. Thus this series seeks to challenge harmful myths surrounding immigrants and immigration, with each reflection focused on challenging a particular myth. Facts and statistics presented in the series come from a resource called “Common Myths about Immigrants and Immigration in Tennessee” that was developed by Allies of Knoxville’s Immigrant Neighbors (AKIN) and adapted by Blount County United (BCU) Education Committee and Blount County Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ). “Common Myths about Immigrants and Immigration in Tennessee,” 2011. 

– Fact #3 –

Immigrants pay taxes. In fact, Tennessee government is funded by sales and property taxes. Everyone pays these taxes, and the TN Comptroller reports that “Unauthorized [immigrants] contribute to state and local revenue through sales taxes; property taxes included in rents and other consumption taxes” (TN Comptroller Report on Immigration). Despite the legal obstacles, an estimated 60% of undocumented immigrants also pay federal income tax without access to the many federal programs they fund (Pew Hispanic Center).

Undocumented workers also pay an estimated $7 billion in Social Security and $1.5 billion in Medicare taxes a year, with little hope of ever receiving benefits (Social Security Administration). By the end of the 2000 tax year, there was $374 billion in the Social Security Suspense File from undocumented workers.

Reflection by DR. KATHIE SHIBA

All of us pay taxes to fund public schools and local government services including highways, fire and rescue services, law enforcement, parks and recreation, community centers, public transportation, health care, corrections (prisons, juvenile justice programs, and parole), care for persons with mental illness and developmental disabilities, environmental projects, and more. We are able to use these different services without question.

However, this is not true for undocumented workers, who are not able to use some of the services that they support, like the rest of us. You know, we expect different levels of services in our day-to-day lives, when we pay different amounts.

But, we all expect equal and equivalent levels of services when we pay (contribute) similar amounts. This is not happening for undocumented workers. In fact, the money they pay to the Social Security trust funds is a steady source of revenue for the Social Security system – this is something they will never be able to draw from, yet they are helping to pay for our retirements!

It is important to remember that undocumented immigrants support the economy in our communities – they buy clothing, eat out at restaurants, go to entertainment venues, sign cell phone contracts, pay for transportation and housing, and more. This creates jobs! Undocumented workers are not a drain on the US economy; in fact, it is clear that they contribute to our economy!

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