30 March 2006

Colorado Immigration Initiative #55

They said it:

Defend Colorado Now organizer Fred Elbel conceded the amendment would have little fiscal impact if passed because the federal government requires the state to pay for K-12 education and emergency care for all residents.

Proponents claim that most of their alleged costs of illegal immigration involve federally mandated K-12 education for children of undocumented immigrant mothers, who may themselves be U.S. citizens, Medicaid, also federally mandated for emergency services and about half of which they claim is for births to children who are, of course, U.S. citizens the moment that they are born, and prison costs, which they don't plan to discontinue.

One expense that might be erased outright was "paying for the births of illegal aliens" through Medicaid - not an emergency procedure in his opinion, [John] Andrews said.

So, the main impact that proponents would like to see is to have poor immigrant mothers have home births without medical assistance. Thus, we can know that, at least, we saved $5,000 (the cost of a typical delivery) that might have benefitted an illegal alien, when we are paying $12,000 a year for life (the average Medicaid cost of covering a disabled person) for health care for an American child who developed lifetime disabilities as a consequence of complications of pregnancy, instead of $1,500 a year (the average Medicaid cost of covering a healthy child), until the child grows up and gets a job that provides health insurance.

The proponents make no effort to assess taxes paid by undocumented immigrants. This is probably because they would discover that illegal immigrants still pay taxes.

“[E]very empirical study of illegals’ economic impact demonstrates the opposite . . . undocumenteds actually contribute more to public coffers in taxes than they cost in social services.” . . . each year undocumented immigrants add billions of dollars in sales, excise, property, income and payroll taxes, including Social Security, Medicare and unemployment taxes, to federal, state and local coffers. Hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants go out of their way to file annual federal and state income tax returns.

Yet undocumented immigrants are barred from almost all government benefits, including food stamps, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Medicaid, federal housing programs, Supplemental Security Income, Unemployment Insurance, Social Security, Medicare, and the earned income tax credit (EITC). Generally, the only benefits federally required for undocumented immigrants are emergency medical care, subject to financial and category eligibility, and elementary and secondary public education.

There is certainly no indication that undocumented immigrants are not paying non-income and payroll related taxes, which are the sole sources of tax revenue for local governments in Colorado, and a significant source of funding for the state government in Colorado. For example, almost all state and local funds for roads in Colorado come from gasoline taxes, sales taxes and property taxes.

According to the Colorado Department of Revenue (on the 2005 Colorado Individual Income Tax Guide), the average household with an adjusted family money income of $20,000-$30,000 pays $1,681 a year in state and local taxes other than state income taxes, and the average household with an adjusted family money income of $30,000-$40,000 pays $2,060 a year in state and local taxes other than state income taxes. The average state income taxes in those income ranges are $524 and $822 a year, respectively, a number that itself depends on family size. If the average undocumented immigrant family is larger than the average family in Colorado, the amount of state income taxes owed would be less. If the average undocmented immigrant family is smaller than the average family in Colorado, the amount of state income taxes owed would be more.

Also, even if undocumented workers aren't paying Social Security and Medicare taxes (and while some are, often with false or borrowed social security numbers, many are paid under the table and don't), they also aren't getting that benefits that are paid for with those taxes. Undocumented workers also make very little use of state higher education (and often do so at out of state student rates, if at all), even though this is one of the many purposes for which state general fund dollars are used.

Enforcing Initiative 55 would cost money as well, despite the fact that it would result in little or no additional revenues for governments. Do we really want to spend the money, for example, to have librarians across the state conducting citizenship tests for every patron prior to issuing library cards and everyone who simply wants to sit in the library and read books, for what is a free service in any case? Should bus drivers demand proof of citizenship when riders seek to pay a cash fare for their trip across town? And, if they don't, do we really want to spend the money to have the state defend a lawsuit from some Tom Tancredo clone insisting that they do?

Initiative 55 is a bad bill that even the proponents agree won't save Colorado money.


Dex said...

for once, just once, i want to hear someone whinge about them imma-gants because they were just about to unionize at their fruit picking or catering job...

Anonymous said...

I'm glad that you brought up union jobs. Illegal immigration has done more to destroy unions than to help them. Cesar Chavez's ag union has been completely busted due to unions.

It is good to read something that addresses paying of tax. I have repeatedly told folks that illegals pay towards education through property taxes via renting property. It is obvious that they pay other taxes when they buy stuff.

Income & Social Security taxes are another matter. SS had a huge problem several years ago in that it had over 4B in unmatched funds due to incorrect SS numbers. They may pay and not collect, but the funds cannot be used.

Now however, many employers (mostly small businesses) are hiring as sub-contractors. That leaves the employee responsible for paying taxes. And several have admitted to me that they accept different names and ID's each season from the same employee.

Anyhow, do appreciate a more rounded sense of the issue.


Dex said...

the real economics of undocumented workers are never addressed by immigration opponents - if they don't dig on immigration, do they vote consistently for pro-union candidates? are they active in a union? do they ever consider asking why such and such a business would take and then put ppl through risky or long hours of back-breaking work? and why, almost always, latinos or mexicans, and not southeast asians - which of course would reveal a lot more about the nature of their opposition than what it is their actually supposed to be opposing...

Dex said...

that should be "they're actually supposed to be opposing"....