There is a middle ground on the 11.5 million illegal immigrants — the Pew Hispanic Center’s estimate — that are in this country.
First, there are a few things to agree on.
— Illegals guilty of felonies should be cut no slack, rounded up, and deported.
— The self-righteous tech titans have a big stake in legal immigration but not illegal immigration. Work visa immigrants are a separate issue and they are legal.
— Farmers as well as everyone else — given that we all eat — also have a big stake in legal work visa immigrants.
— Tech H-1B visas, given the political muscle of the Silicon Valley versus the political muscle of the Central Valley, are far more numerous and easier to secure than H-2A visas for temporary or seasonal farm work.
— There are at least 5 million illegals working in this country if not more.
— Contrary to what many think, illegals cannot get welfare per se but they can access an array of low-income services that don’t require legal documentation to secure.
— Illegals can get emergency room health care and in California they can secure health insurance coverage.
— The children of illegals attend public schools.
— Many illegals fill low-paying jobs besides farm work that arguably legal residents don’t want.
— And, if that previous line about legal residents not wanting menial jobs raises hackles on your necks, here’s something you can’t deny: Employers who hire illegals are skirting mandatory contributions involving employees such as Social Security, and the illegal workers aren’t paying any taxes at all.
— People who are here illegally should either become legal guests of this country or leave.
That last point can and does spur cantankerous debates. But given the depth of the problem — at least 11.5 million if not more out of 322 million people plus — there are arguably at least 5 million contributing in some way to the American economy, it seems foolish just to turn the playing table over and dump everything on the floor.
However, the United States has the right to secure its borders and say who can and can’t enter this country who are not legal residents just as every other country has.
The shadow workforce could be a big bump to the government’s bottom line by making it legal.
The federal government says the median annual salary for a farmworker is $24,960. Assuming a 40-hour work week — which of course is laughable for a farmworker — that translates into $12 an hour. For the purposes of illustration, assume there are 5 million illegals working making $12 an hour. If they were paying 6.5 percent into Social Security and their employers 6.5 percent, that is $16 billion a year.
Social Security pays out $750 billion in benefits. That $16 billion may sound like a drop in the bucket, but a 4.5 percent jump in revenue isn’t anything to sneeze at.
There is also a myth that illegals hold nothing but bottom jobs. Not true. I’ve known three families at least where the husband isn’t here legally and the wife is and they have bought homes. Both work at fairly good jobs. Two of the husbands who aren’t here legally were pulling in $20 an hour working in construction. I can’t speak for all three but one of them did not have an illegally procured Social Security card, which means they had to be paid under the table given a Social Security card is essential for employment verification.
Someone pulling down $40,000 a year would pay a lot more in Social Security taxes. But it also means they are avoiding having to pay taxes of any kind. The couple has two kids. Without saying what the wife does for a living, she easily makes more than her husband. That means they would have a significant state and federal tax liability, but likely don’t between two dependents and a mortgage deduction on her salary given his ghost salary is under the IRS’ radar.
That means they’re getting a free pass partially — they obviously can’t escape paying sales tax — for their kids’ education.
The other ugly side of the equation is the employer cuts costs illegally by using illegal workers.
Of course, you also have to address the issue of mega-companies that farm out menial services to janitorial firms or individuals on a contract basis. While that seems like another issue, a number of illegals are employed by such firms that often contract with companies.
Filling 5 million or so jobs that illegals may currently hold won’t be that easy.
There is little doubt that illegal workers are here illegally. They are not legal immigrants.
But what nobody is talking about is how illegals really survive in this country. We’re not talking about the relatively small number who turn to crime, such as drug sales.
In order for illegals to work in this country they must do so under the table. That means tens of thousands of businesses are not following the law and securing clearance as required by I-9 form regulations using e-verify to assure those they hire can legally work in the United States.
There also needs to be accountability with those here legally doing business that are hiring illegally.
Two wrongs do not make a right.