Community Organization in Houston Takes on Immigrant Myths

Neighborhood Centers Inc., a Houston-based organization with the mission of “bringing resources, education and connection to underserved neighborhoods,” recently put out a myth-busting booklet on immigrants. The booklet counters misperceptions about immigrants related to the economy, jobs, taxes, and even family values.

In the introduction to the booklet, NCI states:
Neighborhood Centers Inc. is not a legislative or enforcement organization. We don’t advocate a specific immigration policy. Our mission is to ensure that when people arrive in Houston – regardless of their origin or status, or whether they come to pursue a better life or to flee political oppression – they have the opportunity to pursue not simply the American Dream, but the Human Dream.
Among the compelling sections of the booklet:
MYTH: Undocumented immigrants don’t pay taxes.
FACT: The U.S. Social Security Administration has estimated that three-quarters of undocumented immigrants pay payroll taxes, and that they annually contribute $7 billion in Social Security funds that they will be unable to claim and $1.5 billion to Medicare. They also pay income taxes, and those who own homes pay property taxes– as do renters, in the form of pass-throughs – that support education, healthcare, and other services.

MYTH: Immigrants get healthcare for free and are causing costs to skyrocket.
FACT: According to research published in The American Journal of Public Health, 30 percent of immigrants use no healthcare at all during a year; most immigrants have health insurance; immigrant children had healthcare expenditures that were 74 percent lower than those for U.S.-born children; and immigrants account for more than 10 percent of the U.S. population, but only 7.9 percent of total health spending and 8 percent of government health spending. The researchers concluded: “Our study refutes the assumption that immigrants represent a disproportionate financial burden on the U.S. healthcare system.”

MYTH: Undocumented workers worsen the budget deficit by taking services they never pay for.
FACT: Immigrant workers actually save the country money. When they come to America, they typically go to work immediately. So they begin contributing to the economy almost instantly, without incurring the “upfront costs” – education, healthcare, unemployment compensation, etc. – that might otherwise be incurred through age 18.

MYTH: Undocumented workers take money out of Social Security without paying into it.
FACT: It is estimated that more than $519 billion in earnings has been reported to Social Security on behalf of workers who will not be able to draw retirement from the system. Those contributions add up to about 10 percent of the system’s total surplus. The Center for Urban Economic Development at the University of Illinois-Chicago estimates that undocumented workers generate between $6 billion and $7 billion annually in Social Security tax revenues. So without undocumented workers, the system would actually be in worse shape. And because they tend to be younger, and will thus be in the workforce longer, these workers will actually he helping to finance the retirement of Baby Boomers – whose numbers are expected to strain Social Security.
Download the full booklet here.

Copyright 2009 MALDEF — Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund