Business leaders and immigration experts explained the needs for and benefits of creating a policy to ID and Tax unauthorized immigrants during the latest episode of the Rational Middle of Immigration Docuseries: Finding Solutions – The ID and Tax Proposal.
An ID and Tax proposal involves creating a conditional method for unauthorized immigrants to earn their legal status. After passing criminal background checks and paying fees to compensate for processing costs, applicants could obtain an ID and qualify for legal status and work permits.
Stan Marek, CEO of MAREK, explained that a key goal of the ID and Tax proposal is to take unauthorized immigrants out of the underground economy and put them on to taxpaying employers’ payrolls.
“They may be working under a fake social security number, they may be working as an independent subcontractor, but they’re working and they’ve got skills. A lot of these workers working in the underground economy used to work for people like me. They were let go because of ICE audits or social security no-matches or insurance audits. At one time there were 11-12 million people in the country on payrolls sending in about $6-7 billion of social security per year that they would never get. These ICE audits have taken millions of people off of payrolls and dumped them into the underground economy where they’re working for cash and not paying income or employment taxes… We’re not going to deport these people, but why can’t we at least ID them, so we know who they are, for national security. And then they can pay taxes like the rest of us: ID and Tax,” said Marek.
Dr. Tony Payan, Director at the Center for the United States and Mexico at the James A. Baker Institute of Public Policy pointed out that ID and Tax would not create a surplus of labor or have an adverse effect on wages because unauthorized immigrants are already here and mostly integrated into the economy.
“We know that 76% of the 10.7 million undocumented in the United States are employed, in addition to some informally, so 95% of them could be said to be employed. If 95% of the undocumented residents in this country are employed, that means the market can bear it. In that sense, the immigration system in the US has a huge gap. We don’t have visas for the kinds of workers that our very dynamic economy often needs,” said Payan, adding that allowing these workers to obtain work permits and protection from deportation would increase their productivity.
Dan Griswold, Co-Director of Trade and Immigration with the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, pointed out that 86% of the estimated 11 million unauthorized immigrants in the US have been living here for at least five years. He said the current vast population of people in the US without legal status was an offense to the rule of law, but that deporting them at this point would not only be unpractical but unthinkable.
“The idea of rounding up most or all of them and deporting them would be hugely expensive, probably in the hundreds of billions of dollars, it would be an economic and human tragedy. Think of the workplaces that would be disrupted, the families that would be torn apart, it’s not only unthinkable but impractical. And yet, there are ongoing costs to having a vast illegal population here, and it’s just kind of an offense to the rule of law,” Griswold said while calling on lawmakers to pass an ID and Tax policy.
Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo said allowing unauthorized immigrants to earn legal status would greatly help his department’s efforts with community policing.
“When you push these people into the corner and they’re not cooperating, the unintended consequence was that reporting of sexual assaults in our city by Hispanics was reduced by 42.8%,” Said Acevedo about the months following the Texas State Legislature’s 2018 passage of SB4, a law that encouraged police to ask people about their immigration status.
“The undocumented are not fully living in the US under their current status. We have not given them the opportunity or certainty to be able to fully contribute to the country, and that is not just hurting them, but it’s hurting all of us,” said Acevedo.