According to Sally Denton, author of American Massacre, the United States has a vested interest in maintaining its undocumented workforce. “Characteristically, many Americans want it all. Business wants cheap labor. Consumers want low prices.”
A May 4, 2005 editorial “Immigration Reality Check” in the Wall Street Journal echoed that point of view: “… there’s a real world demand for immigrant workers if U.S. agriculture is going to remain productive and competitive.”
Senator George Voinovich of Ohio explained that the jobs performed by illegal immigrants provide employment for Americans. “Agricultural economists tell us each farmworker job in these [fruit, vegetable, nursery crops] industries supports 3 1/2 jobs in the surrounding economy: processing, packaging, transportation, equipment, supplies, lending, and insurance,” he said.
Tamar Jacoby, author of Reinventing the Melting Pot: The New Immigrants and What It Means to Be American, argues that, despite some critics’ claims, illegal immigrants are not taking jobs from Americans. “Our economy depends on a robust influx of immigrant labor,” she said. “Our workforce is more and more educated and middle-class. People don’t want to work outside in the fields. So we have whole industries that rely on international smuggling cartels to get their workers.”
She continued, “Illegal immigrants are not stealing jobs from American workers. They’re doing jobs most Americans don’t want to do.”
A park ranger put it even more bluntly to writer Christopher Ketcham in the article “The Angry Patriot” in Salon: “People want their cheap lettuce, man.”
Many economists argue that the benefit of illegal labor goes far beyond lower produce prices; illegal immigrant workers in the United States provide the Social Security system with as much as $7 billion per year. Illegal immigration, said Marcelo Suarez-Orozco, co-director of immigration studies at New York University, may be “the fastest way to shore up the long-term finances of Social Security.”
In 1986, the Immigration Reform and Control Act made it illegal for employers to knowingly hire undocumented employees. Most illegal workers bought fake IDs to use in securing jobs, and gave employers bogus Social Security numbers. When employers filed the associated W-2 earnings reports, the Social Security Administration put the incorrect Social Security numbers into an “earnings suspense file.”
According to the April 2005 New York Times article “Illegal Immigrants are Bolstering Social Security with Billions,” in 2002 alone (the last year figures were available from the Social Security Administration), nine million W-2 forms were in the suspense file, representing $56 billion in earnings.
“Our assumption is that about three-quarters of other-than-legal immigrants pay payroll taxes,” said Stephen C. Goss, Social Security’s chief actuary.
Steven Camarota, director of research at the Center for Immigration Studies, an immigration advocacy group, calculated that 3.8 million households headed by illegal immigrants were responsible for $6.4 billion in Social Security taxes in 2002.
After weighing this argument, do you think enough is being done to manage undocumented immigrants in California?