$250 Thousand Million

Many involved in the immigration debate, both on the pro-immigration and the anti-immigration sides, all too often believe that immigrants are a net drain on the American economy. Those on the pro-immigration side then typically call for compassion for the immigrants, and those on the anti-immigration side typically call for a halt or reduction of immigrants. We believe that both approaches to immigration are wrong, and for the same reason - immigrants are solid contributors to the economy, and we could not prosper without large-scale immigration. Very often debates on this issue get quickly clouded by a veritable deluge of statistics from both sides, and many people find it hard to digest the slew of statistics that this topic inevitably generates. So, it might help to focus on just one statistic - not to settle the debate, but to get an idea of the enormity of the numbers involved. That might be sufficiently eye-opening for many of our readers.

The Social Security Administration maintains what it calls an “Earnings Suspense File” - an account where the Social Security contributions of those whose names and numbers do not match are deposited. Undoubtedly, some of these are contributions from Americans who made a mistake on their W-4s, but it is our estimate that at least 50% are from hard-working but undocumented immigrants.

The spectacular drop in the Earnings Suspense File at exactly the time that immigrants were legalized through IRCA speaks for itself). Now back to the numbers. This account at the SSA now has about $500 Billion in it! That’s right, about half a trillion dollars. Which means that, in our opinion, poor, undocumented immigrants have pumped in a quarter of a trillion dollars into Uncle Sam’s pockets.

It would not be a stretch to say that, but for large-scale immigration, we would have had deficits throughout the 1990s. As we said earlier in this opinion, we are not trying to settle the debate here - just to point out the enormity of the numbers. Lets see what a quarter trillion means - it means $250 thousand million. The monies deposited into the US treasury by undocumented workers are about the same as the entire net worth of a quarter of million millionaires. We hope that arguments of the economic value of immigrants will now look a little different. Immigration is not about penny ante, it is big bucks - no wonder it is also big politics.