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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    The dishonest defense of the borders

    Stan Molevercolumnist
    Stan Molever
    columnist

    Taxes were due on Tuesday. And you know who showed up in record numbers to report something like $5 billion in tax liabilities? That’s right. Illegal immigrants.

    One of the most common complaints I hear about illegal immigrants (complaints that are frequently employed in the defense of arguments like “”round ’em up””) is that the major injustice of their presence is in how much money in government services they consume, coupled with how little income tax they pay back.

    If you are vehemently opposed to illegal immigration, I think it is a safe bet that you believe you fall into one of three categories. You think that they are cheating their way into the country and effectively “”cutting in line,”” so to speak; you think they pose a serious security threat to our great nation; or you think they are economic burdens who horde government services without paying for it.

    These arguments are generally a cover. They are frequently employed by low-wage American workers and the politicians and policy advocates elected by them to protect their true interests: their jobs.

    Because it is tax time, it seems particularly appropriate to clear up some confusion surrounding the third category, that misapprehension that illegal immigrants are an economic burden.

    This point is salient because of how untrue it is, and how the events of the last few days have illustrated its untruth. In fact, there are approximately 11 million people living in this country who have applied with the Internal Revenue Service for an individual taxpayer identification number, the vast majority of who are generally accepted to be illegal immigrants.

    Those are illegal immigrants who have found a way to pay taxes without having access to a Social Security card. The common response is that these immigrants are mostly interested in tax refunds – I had similar suspicions. But from the data that is available, the evidence suggests that the vast majority of illegal taxpayers actually owe money to the government.

    In fact, just to put the nail in the coffin of the old yet oddly popular argument that illegal immigrants are a burden on the economy, it is worth noting that illegal immigrants do not receive food stamps, they do not receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, they do not receive Social Security benefits, they do not receive Medicare, they do not receive federal housing programs or unemployment insurance and they do not receive Medicaid.

    And now, on top of all that, it also seems that they are turning out to pay taxes, hoping that at some point in the future it will provide them with the paper trail necessary to gain citizenship.

    Some are less concerned with the impact of immigration on federal spending and more with the supposed drain on local governments. To that point, while there is no comprehensive evidence that state governments actually lose money as a result of illegal immigration, neighboring Colorado has actually reported an increase in state costs as a result of trying to implement new anti-immigration legislation.

    So if you argued against illegal immigration because it put a strain on the economy, I hope you are more willing to accept and acknowledge why you really dislike illegal immigrants – because you think that they will take your job.

    And let’s just get this out in the open: If a Mexican can do your job more efficiently for lower wages, employers should hire him, because he provides the best value.

    The government of the United States of America was established to protect your physical body, not your career. The state is obliged to protect you from threats to your life and property, but the state is not obliged to protect your job.

    So be honest, and at least acknowledge your premise for disliking illegal immigrants. It is not because they are bad for the economy, which both you and 85 percent of economists now acknowledge to be untrue. It is not because you believe the government should protect its borders from economic and terrorist threats, but that it should protect your job.

    But your argument is tired and counterproductive. It has been employed by every economic loser in the history of this country. Candle makers used it to try and block the spread of electricity, early 20th-century nativists used it to block the European immigration and, today, unskilled American workers are using it in an effort to preserve stability and the status quo at the expense of an expanding economy and overall job creation.

    Attempting to limit changes in the status quo is understandable – no one likes losing his or her job. But preventing firms from being able to operate more inexpensively, just as they were able to do with the invention of electricity and the influx of European laborers, prevents industries from growing and new jobs from being created.

    Answer yourself which has done more for the American labor market: Less expensive labor and the resulting industry growth or reforms aimed at preserving the current state of affairs? Maybe then you can honestly acknowledge why you hate illegal immigrants so much.

    Stan Molever is a philosophy senior. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu

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