If one thing is certain about immigrants in this country, regardless of their status, they understand no matter what, from the very beginning of their odyssey to this geographic space in the world, the obligation to pay and declare taxes. There is no escaping this reality if they want to participate in and benefit from the economic machine upon which this social experiment, we call the United States is based.
This is, without a doubt, the most important rules of engagement to understand how to sustain the functions of the system in which, despite the grave differences that persist in how funds are distributed, everyone —rich and poor— must participate.
Well, truth be told, almost everyone.
Because now, due to an investigation by The New York Times into the accounts of President Donald Trump, we realize that those who should lead by example have actually been able to avoid, by cheating, this responsibility that we thought was shared by all.
Basically, the conclusions of the New York daily tell us that, over the course of nearly a decade (1985-1994), the now-president avoided paying millions of dollars in taxes and, defying all logic when it comes to a businessman who has bragged about his success, luxury, and excess, recorded losses of more than $1 billion.
Undocumented immigrants paid more than $27 billion in taxes —federal, state, and local— in 2017, according to a study from New American Economy, which also revealed that this sector of the population had a purchasing power of more than $200 billion.
The immediate trick of the president, of course, has been to resort to the explanation of using “tax shelters” as a “normal tactic” that real estate developers like him were entitled to use in that era. But if that was his “best” argument, why did he never release his tax filings as he was asked before? And why did he not tell us this earlier, in order to avoid speculations that have today been confirmed about this man, who has poked fun at everyone else in relation to their part of the social contract with this country?
Much rantings have emanated from this White House against immigrants, above all undocumented immigrants, regarding the supposed “costs” they represent to the United States: cheap rhetoric promoted ceaselessly and accepted by certain sectors of U.S. society. But study after study has refuted this clear attack on the contributions that immigrant communities make so responsibly.
For example, undocumented immigrants paid more than $27 billion in taxes —federal, state, and local— in 2017, according to a study from New American Economy, which also revealed that this sector of the population had a purchasing power of more than $200 billion.
What is more, the study found that DACA beneficiaries earned more than $23 billion and paid $2.2 billion in federal taxes, as well as $1.8 billion in state and local taxes. TPS beneficiaries paid $891 million in federal taxes and another $654 million in state and local taxes.
Another study from The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) details that, on average, undocumented immigrants add $11.74 billion to the Treasury every year, giving over an average of 8% of their earnings, compared with the 5.4% contributed by the richest 1% in this country —adding to the imbalance that already exists in this socially irritating equation.
ITEP adds that undocumented immigrants also pay, of course, some $2.2 billion in state rental taxes and some $3.6 billion in property taxes, money that —as Univision reported— “is used to finance public schools, public health services, trash collection, and road improvements,” among many other benefits that, paradoxically, undocumented immigrants cannot use “such as Social Security and Medicare health services.”
After all, beyond the direct damage that the 2017 tax reform signed by the president had on ordinary contributors, whose refunds turned to dust this year, the demoralization inherent in this latest presidential scandal is real. When it has to do with money, above all when it touches Trump and remains nebulous, the questions for the next investigation should be: where did it go, what was done with it, where did it come from, who or what rescued the president this time, and for what purpose.
Because, for those paying attention, the fiscal accounts of immigrants are very clear, but those of this other side are murkier than ever.
David Torres is a Spanish-language Advisor at América’s Voice and América’s Voice Education Fund.
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