Busting another myth about immigration reform

Conservatives like to complain that immigrants not only take jobs citizens would otherwise do (mostly untrue), but also constitute a drain on social services. It’s not only an inhumane argument but also impractical: if you need people to perform difficult and dangerous jobs, do you really want them not to be able to get medical treatment or for their kids to go uneducated?

But these arguments aren’t just impractical and immoral. They’re also wrong. As it turns out, undocumented immigrants are a net positive to the social security system:

Here’s how the math works. Five percent of the U.S. work force is undocumented, which is some 8.1 million people. Thirty-eight percent of the 8.1 million pay social security taxes, which comes to roughly $12 billion a year, according to CAP estimates. That’s a pretty nice cushion for a graying America.

Stephen Goss, chief actuary for the Social Security Administration, told the Daily Beast, “Even as it stands under current policy, unauthorized immigrants contribute positively to the financing of social security not only in terms of their own contributions, but in the succeeding generations when they have children on our soil that are citizens from day one.”

Bringing them out of the shadows will let them actually collect on the money they have paid into the system, but it would still be a net positive:

Obama’s executive order would allow newly legalized workers to eventually collect benefits when they reach retirement age. But that’s a long way off for many of them, and any potential loss would be more than offset by the millions of young workers who will be brought into the system to pay taxes for three or four decades before they can collect benefits.

Conservative arguments present reasonable people with a quandary: do you attack their arguments for their heartless immorality? Or their functional impracticality? Or their ill-informed simple wrongness? Whether it’s socialized medicine, immigration policy, climate change, social issues, tax policy, foreign policy or so much else, conservatives are constantly pursuing policies that fail basic moral tests, are largely unworkable, and that are proven wrong by actual evidence at every turn. And yet (or perhaps as a consequence) conservatism veers ever further rightward.

It’s not just a political disagreement. We’re living in different realities at this point. Conservative “reality” just happens to be an ideological constructed fallacy.

David Atkins

David Atkins is a writer, activist and research professional living in Santa Barbara. He is a contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal and president of The Pollux Group, a qualitative research firm.