I got another one of those odd xenophobic "illegal aliens are destroying the country" e-mails yesterday. It had been passed on by a person who I had thought was capable of engaging in critical thinking, but apparently not.
Everytime I'm the lucky (?) recipient of one of these epistles, I marvel again at the explicit illogic they display: illegal aliens are simultaneously stealing jobs from hard-working Americans and bleeding us dry by sucking on the welfare teat, collecting food stamps, and generally enjoying the good life. I want to know how you do that: How do you steal jobs and sit on your ass at the same time? Seriously. Tell me how. It sounds like a great gig.
The bitter truth is that yes, jobs are being taken from U.S. citizens and filled by undocumented immigrants, but it's not the immigrants doing the stealing -- it's the employers who have figured out they can get away with violating multiple labor and tax laws to increase company profits. They ignore faked IDs, pay sub-legal wages, violate OSHA standards, and generally treat their cheap labor pool as disposable. If workers think conditions are unsafe, the overtime hours are illegal, or they've been shorted on their pay, all it takes is one phone call to ICE and the loud-mouthed employee is gone. Doesn't matter if it's a meat packing plant employing thousands of people, or one suburban housewife with a cleaning lady; employers willing to exploit undocumented aliens know full well the power of three simple syllables: la migra.
If undocumented workers are injured on the job, they're not going to get appropriate medical care and disability. They're going to get a one way trip back to El Salvador or Nigeria or Bangladesh. You know those guys hanging out Home Depot hoping for a day's work? Well, if they put in 12 hours and at the end of it get told they're out of luck, they are. All they can do is curse silently and hope they're the next job they take actually pays something.
A favorite line of the anti-immigrant crowd is that undocumented workers are "stealing" our Social Security benefits. How? If they're working with fake IDs and the employer is going through the motions of doing everything legally -- FICA deductions, for example, and state and federal income taxes -- then they are paying into the system with every check. But you know something? They're never going to get any of it back. They can't file for refunds, and they can't apply for retirement benefits, because they haven't paid in under their own legal identity. As far as the IRS and the Social Security Administration are concerned, people who made contributions under a name other than their own have never contributed at all. No refunds, no benefits.
The IRS has acknowledged that there are many millions of dollars in income taxes withheld annually that are never claimed through refunds even though they are being withheld from persons whose incomes are so low they would qualify. The IRS, however, does not go looking for people who don't file returns unless those people owe the government money. Why should they? And, if you don't believe me, next spring if you know you've got a refund coming, don't bother to file a tax return. Just don't hold your breath waiting for the IRS to find you.
As for the sitting back and sucking the rest of us dry by collecting food stamps, welfare, whatever, does anyone with two brain cells left to rub together actually believe that, given the current anti-immigrant climate in this country, undocumented aliens are going to walk into government agencies to voluntarily complete a foot-high pile of paperwork ? These people are smart enough to survive horrendous desert crossings, they manage to scrape by on poverty wages and still send money back to their home countries -- why would they then be stupid enough to draw attention to themselves by trying to get on welfare?
I really wish someone would shove a cork in Lou Dobbs' mouth . . .