Bell: Undocumented Immigrants Pay Their Way

The Bell Policy Center released two new studies today.  The first details state and local taxes paid by undocumented immigrants (pdf). The second shows the costs to Coloradans associated with undocumented workers because of federal mandates (pdf).The facts:

In 2005, the cost of providing federally mandated services to undocumented immigrants totaled nearly $225 million.  Their state and local tax payments totaled approximately $159 million to $194 million.  Thus, undocumented immigrant state and local tax payments amounted to 70 to 86 percent of the estimated costs of providing mandated services.

All the numbers are documented well in the Bell’s papers, here are a couple of notables:

– Total taxes paid by undocumented households in Colorado in 2005: $159 – $194 million

– Undocumented household average taxes paid in Colorado:
     – Sales Tax: $1,265
     – Property Tax: $105
     – Income Tax: $491*

* – the “on the books” number is used in the calculation here, since only “on the books” workers pay income tax.

– Bell uses an estimate of 50% of undocumented immigrants are working “on the books”–a conservative estimate compared to the Social Security Administration which says 75% are.

– Colorado employers pay between $12 million and $15 million each year in Unemployment Insurance Tax for their “on the books” undocumented workers.  Bell uses the 50% number mentioned above, so if we go with the Federal Government’s estimate of 75%, the high-end of this number could get pushed to $22 million.  More important here, as Bell points out:

While employers pay unemployment insurance taxes for their workforce, state law prohibits undocumented workers from collecting unemployment insurance benefits.

Meaning all that money is a big net-plus for the state, since it’s never collected upon.

The Bell concludes today the same thing Dan Hopkins, Bill Owens’ spokesman, did in May 5, 2003, when he was asked by the Denver Post about the Governor’s position on immigration in relation to the visit by Patricio Martinez, then-Governor of the Mexican state of Chihuahua:

‘Immigration is a federal issue,’ Hopkins said.

As the Bell ends their report today, much of the actual burden on local and state governments is caused by Washington DC:

[State and local leaders] should also push the federal government to reimburse state and local governments for a great share of the cost imposed by federal mandates

If the State GOP needs someone to blame, they should look no further than George W. Bush and the Rubber Stamp Republican Congress.

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Paul Preston

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