The problem with President Obama's commitment to "comprehensive immigration reform" is that, like George W. Bush's, his measures thus far also antagonize immigrants – documented or not. But why antagonize working immigrants during this severe an economic crisis? Even undocumented workers are significant contributors to the U.S. economy, having paid over $11 billion in taxes last year.
The Immigration Policy Center, in partnership with our friends at the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, released data that urges a more cooperative approach – versus a punitive one – to dealing with immigration policy.
[H]ouseholds [headed by undocumented immigrants] paid $11.2 billion in state and local taxes. That included $1.2 billion in personal income taxes, $1.6 billion in property taxes, and $8.4 billion in sales taxes. […]
These figures should be kept in mind as politicians and commentators continue with the...debate over what to do with unauthorized immigrants already living in the United States. In spite of the fact that they lack legal status, these immigrants—and their family members—are adding value to the U.S. economy; not only as taxpayers, but as workers, consumers, and entrepreneurs as well.
Undocumented workers are certainly contributing more to the public coffers than many U.S. corporations, including General Electric, which actually claimed billions in tax benefits last year. All without a single 'thank you' to U.S. taxpayers, including the undocumented.
These revelations prompt larger questions about how we relate to one another in this country. Periods of economic strife inevitably lead to the scapegoating of one group or another, be they immigrants, people of color, teachers or union workers.
It's important to recognize that our "immigration" problem is about much more than immigrants. It's about labor. It's about globalization and foreign policy. It's about race, culture and more. It's a complex tangle of issues that will require careful and holistic consideration. Progress will not be made with finger-pointing policies.
One thing's for sure: this country needs revenue. It makes sense that we avoid making things worse by attacking a population that's clearly supporting that need.
Stay tuned: President Obama will address the nation from the U.S.-Mexico border in El Paso, TX, laying out his framework for comprehensive immigration reform on Tuesday, May 10, 2011 at 3:30 p.m. (EST).