Donald Trump kicked off his presidential campaign with anti-immigrant rhetoric, which he has dialed up into action during his presidency. From the beginning, he has attempted to portray as immigrants as criminals and a drain on the system, claiming that they cost the U.S. “billions of dollars a year.”
But like 3,000 other things Trump has said since becoming president, that is an attempt to mislead.
Do immigrants pay taxes?
Yes, immigrants — both legal and undocumented — pay taxes.
Immigrants who are authorized to work in the United States are required to pay the same income taxes that U.S. citizens do.
And undocumented immigrants pay billions in taxes each year — including the taxes that fund Social Security and Medicare, which they are unable to use.
According to The Institute of Taxation and Economic Policy, about half of undocumented workers file income tax returns. Vox reports that in 2015 (the last year for which data is available), the IRS received 4.4 million income tax returns from workers without Social Security numbers, which includes undocumented immigrants. They paid $23.6 billion in income taxes.
And that’s despite the fact that undocumented immigrants don’t qualify for certain tax breaks, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit. This month, California Governor Jerry Brown announced a plan to extend California’s earned income tax credit to low-income families of people without social security numbers. It would help about 120,000 immigrant households.
The Pew Research Center estimated that there were 11.4 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. in 2014, and 8 million of those were in the workforce.
Why do undocumented immigrants pay taxes?
“First of all, it’s the law,” said Jose Magaña-Salgado, a policy attorney at the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, on CNNMoney last year. “And these undocumented immigrants are trying to abide by the law and are fulfilling their civic and financial responsibilities.”
And it may help obtain citizenship in the future, should comprehensive immigration reform provide a path to citizenship. Federal immigration law requires applicants for visas to be of “good moral character,” and paying taxes is one way to demonstrate that.