Don Roach: An Equitable Solution to Illegal Immigration

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


How’s this for an illegal immigration solution?

Require all illegal immigrants to pay an additional 15% in taxes on an annual basis for five years. In addition to this, any tax refund would be forfeited by an illegal immigrant for five years and a portion would be held in escrow to pay for what’s in the next sentence. After five years, any illegal immigrant will be allowed to apply for a permanent green card free of charge.

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Rough mathematics of the plan

I did some math on adult-age illegal immigrants in this country. There are approximately 10.2 million illegal adults in the country. Let’s assume 15% are not employed and about 20% are not seeking employment (disabled, homemakers, etc.). That means about 6.6M illegal immigrants are employed in some capacity. If we assume on average they make $9/hour work 40 hours a week 50 weeks a year that translates to about $18k average annual salary for 6.6M people. Looking at the effective tax rate on individuals in this tax bracket, their tax liability would be about 2 percent or $2.4b. If we increase the amount they pay by 15% these individuals wind up paying $2.7b and increase of $358M. $358M over 6.6M people translates to $54 per person per year (on average). Now, if anyone has better math or sees some glaring holes in what I did above please let me know, but the numbers seem to be in the ballpark.

What is happening today?

Many illegal immigrants are paying federal income tax today through the use if ITINs (Individual Taxpayer Identification Number). Not all ITIN filers are illegal immigrants but most are and ITIN filers paid $0.87b in income tax in 2010. However, the IRS doled out refund payments of $4.0b netting ITIN filers about $3.1b. Not a bad gig, to be here illegally, file taxes, and actually get more back than paying into the system. Obviously, ITIN filers are lower income earners, but the fact that they are able to get back more from the IRS than they are paying in is very concerning when you consider most of these filers are not here legally. Also, let’s consider all of the illegal immigrants who do not file taxes at all only paying sales tax in the state wherever they make their purchases.

Progressives like to talk about equality, but when you have a class of people who are able to circumvent laws that you and I cannot, that’s not fair nor is it equitable.

The solution

So, let’s expand on what the IRS is doing today except preclude illegal immigrants from receiving a refund. Since taxes are paid annually, let’s allow able bodied working illegal immigrants a year to file for an ITIN, in so doing they will be enrolled into the Documented Persons index (DPI). The DPI will serve as the government’s way to document the presently undocumented and those people on the index will be required to pay an additional 15% above their tax bracket for the next five years. They will also forfeit any refund by the IRS.

The tradeoff is very simple. Illegal immigrants move to a legal status and the government gains the income tax from the newly legalized immigrants. During the five years they have legal status, they must file for a green card if they intend to stay in the country permanently. If at the end of five years they have not filed for a green card, they will be required to leave the country, no if’s, and’s, or but’s.

What this plan hopes to achieve is a revenue stream to offset the cost of permanently legalizing those that are in the country now and also place an increased requirement on them from an income tax perspective because they are currently here illegally.

In my opinion, it’s a fair and equitable solution that’s neither amnesty nor plain mean. It requires the illegal immigrant to bear more responsibility and in exchange for consistently being responsible the reward will be permanent residency. Obviously, the solution I’ve presented needs details worked out such as when someone loses their position and has difficulty finding work, but the concept behind the idea is for illegal immigrants to take responsibility for their status and for the government to provide a path to residency.

What say you Progressives?

Don Roach is a member of the Rhode Island Republicans. He can be reached at


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