Why Undocumented Immigrants Choose To Pay Taxes

Undocumented citizens choose to pay taxes for numerous reasons that include avoiding deportation and aiding in their chance to become legalized citizens.

By Tori Hook | Published

undocumented immigrants taxes refund recession

Undocumented immigration has become a hot-button issue over the last decade, with many politicians using deportation and border control as campaign platforms. One of the biggest arguments against undocumented immigration is that people assume undocumented immigrants don’t pay taxes and, therefore, that they’re a strain on a system they’re not paying into. Contrary to popular belief, though, people entering the U.S. without immigration documents often do pay taxes, billions of dollars in federal taxes every year, in fact. From tax returns filed to taxes taken out of paychecks, undocumented immigrants are often contributing just as much to the tax system as you—just with less of the benefits that come with it.

According to CNN, there are many reasons why people who are undocumented may choose to pay taxes, even though they aren’t technically in the system. First and foremost, undocumented immigrants have more reason than most to comply with federal laws; with the threat of deportation always over their heads, they want to be able to show that they’ve done their best to comply with and contribute to federal taxes—just like any other American. In a better scenario, undocumented immigrants who are given the chance to legalize their status can present their tax payments, despite not being part of the system, as evidence of good character and work ethic. Lastly, tax documents can serve as physical evidence of someone’s residence in the U.S. and work history here which, when documented, can help their case for legalization.

You might wonder how undocumented immigrants are able to pay taxes without Social Security numbers; some believe they steal numbers from U.S. citizens, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. You don’t have to have a Social Security number to pay taxes, and millions of people pay taxes without them each year using Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITIN). ITIN tax returns account for nearly $6 billion in U.S. taxes every year, and the Social Security Administration itself estimates that payments from undocumented immigrants account for $12 billion in tax revenue.

Recently, more and more immigrant rights’ advocates have been speaking out about undocumented immigrants and federal taxes, arguing that it’s unfair for them to pay taxes when they can’t access the services those taxes provide—and they’re right. Even when undocumented immigrants pay taxes, work hard, and contribute to the U.S. culture and economy, they’re still often deported, detained, and treated unfairly. With nationalism—and racism—on the rise after Donald Trump’s presidency, undocumented immigrants are often the victims of hatred and bigotry, despite their contributions to our country.

The Trump administration’s characterization of undocumented immigrants as criminals, terrorists, and other unsavory folk, has done lasting damage to immigrant communities in the U.S. Most immigrants—documented or undocumented—come to the United States to find safer living conditions and better jobs or to be near loved ones, hardly motivations we can fault them for. Undocumented immigrants contribute time, money, and culture to our society, not to mention $12 billion in taxes, and most peoples attitudes about them are outdated.