Some people, most notably GOP presidential frontrunner Donald Trump, like to say that undocumented immigrants are stealing American jobs and "taking our money." This is a dumb opinion for a number of reasons (and hypocritical when coming from Trump, who tends to hire foreign over American workers) but one that fearful, poverty-stricken Americans hold.

Those people should take note of a report published Wednesday by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP), which reveals that undocumented immigrants are actually contributing quite a bit to our economy: $11.6 billion per year, to be exact.


In a statement, ITEP State Tax Policy Director Meg Wiehe said that “regardless of the politically contentious nature of immigration reform, the data show undocumented immigrants greatly contribute to our nation’s economy, not just in labor but also with tax dollars."


According to the report, undocumented immigrants on average contribute 8% of their total incomes to local and state taxes.

The Latin Times suggests where exactly this money might be coming from:

Why do immigrants pay taxes regardless of legal status? Because even if someone works under the table or for themselves (which is legal for undocumented immigrants) they still usually pay income taxes. Some use fake social security numbers and even pay into social security accounts they’ll never benefit from. Those who work under the table and manage to dodge income tax still pay governments in the form of sales and property tax.


ITEP used a number of different proxies to determine how much undocumented immigrants pay in taxes per state, including the amount of estimated undocumented immigrants in each state and the size of their families, their status as homeowners, and how much documented families with low and moderate incomes pay.

Using this information and more, the researchers were able to break down the figures for each state, and predict that they would increase if President Obama's stalled executive actions on immigration were to take place. The researchers wrote (emphasis ours):

If fully implemented, granting temporary immigration relief to these 5 million undocumented immigrants through [the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals] and [the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents] would boost their current state and local tax contributions by more than $805 million… the overall state and local taxes paid by this population as a share of their income would increase from 8.1 percent to 8.6 percent.


In Wiehe's words, “With immigration policy playing a key role in state and national debates and President Obama’s 2014 executive action facing review by the Supreme Court, accurate information about the tax contributions of undocumented immigrants is needed now more than ever." Indeed.

Danielle Wiener-Bronner is a news reporter.

Share This Story

Get our newsletter