Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Reminds America Undocumented Immigrants Pay Taxes: 'They Pay Your Kids' Schooling'

New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is asking Americans to reframe the way they see immigration policy, asserting that it isn't "about 'containing a problem'"—'it's about realising the opportunity and value inherent in all people."

To drive her point home, Ocasio-Cortez stressed that undocumented immigrants in the U.S. "pay taxes," meaning they "pay for your kids' schooling too."

"For the last time: People who are undocumented pay taxes!" Ocasio-Cortez said in a tweet. "Public goods aren't 'gifts' to immigrants-they pay for your kids' schooling too."

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Indeed, the fact that undocumented immigrants pay billions of dollars in federal taxes each year often goes overlooked in the immigration debate.

However, studies have long shown that millions of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. pay taxes—and that immigration reform allowing undocumented immigrants to work in the U.S. legally would boost their state and local tax contributions.

While it is difficult to say exactly how much undocumented immigrants contribute in taxes today, a 2013 report from the Institute On Taxation and Economic Policy highlighted how "the 11.2 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States" at the time were "already paying a significant share of their income in state and local taxes."

"Like other people living and working in the United States, undocumented immigrants currently contribute a significant share of their income to state and local taxes," the report said. "In addition to paying sales and excise taxes when they purchase goods and services like utilities, clothing and gasoline, undocumented immigrants also pay property taxes directly on their homes or indirectly as renters, and at least half are paying income taxes despite lacking legal status."

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Collectively, the report said, undocumented immigrants paid an estimated $10.6 billion in 2010 "with contributions ranging from less than $2 million in Montana to more than $2.2 billion in California."

"This means these families are likely paying about 6.4 percent on average of their income in state and local taxes," it said.

The report also stressed that those numbers "would rise under immigration reform."

"Undocumented immigrants currently contribute significantly to state and local taxes," the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy said.

At the time, the institute maintained that "allowing undocumented immigrants to work in the United States legally would increase their state and local tax contributions by an estimated $2 billion a year."

"Their effective state and local tax rate would also increase to 7 percent on average, which would put their tax contributions more in line with documented taxpayers with similar incomes," it said.

While the 2013 report noted that "the aggregate state and local taxes paid by undocumented immigrants in each state may seem modest compared to overall tax collections," it noted that "undocumented immigrants make up 5 percent of the labor force and are a small share of most states' populations."

Further, it said, "their effective rate is close to taxpayers in similar income situations and, in many states, can be higher than the effective tax rates paid by upper income taxpayers."

As the National Immigration Law Center pointed out in 2017, many undocumented immigrants rely on an "Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) to file their taxes.

"Since 1996, the IRS has issued ITINs to taxpayers and their dependents who are not eligible to obtain a Social Security number," the law center says on its website.

In its own analysis, Washington-based think tank The Bipartisan Policy Center, noted that "most experts believe the vast majority of tax returns filed with ITINs today are filed by undocumented immigrants," with 4.35 million tax returns filed using ITINs in 2015, representing more than $13.6 billion in taxes.

In an analysis of how and why undocumented immigrants pay taxes, the National Immigration Law Center provided several reasons, including that residents want to show they are complying with federal tax laws and that paying taxes can help demonstrate "good moral character" in potential future cases for legal status.

AOC
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez holds an immigration Town Hall In Queens on July 20, 2019 in New York City. Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and the three other progressive freshmen in the House have become the focus of attacks from Donald Trump in recent days. Spencer Platt/Getty
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Reminds America Undocumented Immigrants Pay Taxes: 'They Pay Your Kids' Schooling' | U.S.