Illegal immigrants pay taxes, like we do

This is the occasional reminder that I consider substantive differences few among these alternatives: illegal aliens, illegal immigrants, and undocumented workers. I personally use “undocumented workers”. But when citing a source such as a news article I usually defer to the source’s preference.
Contradictions abound. Do Lou Dobbs’ illegal aliens pay taxes? Apparently a lot – with no prospect of getting Soc Security or Medicare benefits.
According to the New York Times, since enactment of the Immigration Reform and Control Act in 1986, which imposed stricter alien identification rules, a lot of underground taxpayers appeared. The Feds have

…Received a flood of W-2 earnings reports with incorrect – sometimes simply fictitious – Social Security numbers. It stashed them in what it calls the “earnings suspense file” ….
The file has been mushrooming ever since: $189 billion worth of wages ended up recorded in the suspense file over the 1990’s, two and a half times the amount of the 1980’s.

In 2002 alone, the last year with figures released by the Social Security Administration, nine million W-2’s with incorrect Social Security numbers landed in the suspense file, accounting for $56 billion in earnings, or about 1.5 percent of total reported wages.

IRS gives taxpayer identification numbers (ITIN) to undocumented workers

This from The South Florida Sun Sentinel (Ft Lauderdale), February 12, 2006 Undocumented workers must report income, by Allan Wernick
The law requires undocumented immigrants to report income to the Internal Revenue Service under the same rules that apply to other earners. If you want to file a tax return but don’t have a Social Security number, you can use an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number as a substitute. An ITIN is a nine-digit number used for tax purposes. You get the number by including IRS Form W-7 the first time you file a tax return.
Many undocumented immigrants want an ITIN for banking and other purposes. The IRS now issues ITINs to undocumented immigrants only if they file a tax return. Given this rule, workers who worked ‘off the books’ and didn’t file in the past might want to consider filing this year.
According to the IRS, to get an ITIN you must have a legal obligation to file a return. You have that obligation if you earned $400 or more as an independent contractor. Examples of an independent contractor are day laborers doing yard work for different homeowners each day and part-time housekeepers working, as needed, cleaning apartments.

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NY Times: U.S. officials defend fake OSHA sting

More on the immigration agency’s sting tactic, and on a similar but abandoned tactic by Houston police,
Following up on my posting a few days ago, I see that the New York Times (subscription may be required) today ran an article about the controversial tactic of immigration officials to conduct sting operations by impersonating OHSA training officials. The tactic appears to be focused on workers at defense installations and appears to assume that terrorists may gain access to critical defense installations through cleaning and grounds keeping contractors, and then exploit the vulernabilities of illegal immigrants.
ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) used the tactic in July, 2005, to lure and arrest workers from Latin America and Europe working at Seymour Johnson Air Force near Goldsboro, in North Carolina.
I have found one other use of sting tactics to arrest undocumented workers – an operation by the Houston police department in 2005, which it said it will not repeat (see below).
And in Chicago, federal and other law enforcement agencies undertook in 2003 a massive non-sting search for terrorism suspects – to in the end arrest undocumented people working as food service workers and such, none of whom had terrorist connections (see below).

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H-1B visas and the engineering workforce shortage, per Chair of Intel

Craig Barrett, Chair of Intel, recently wrote a commentary for the Financial Times (payment required) and afterwards responded to reader questions.
Begun in 1998, the H-1B program has annual caps which in 2003 was 195,000. In 2004 the cap was cut to 65,000. As of 2004, close to 1,000,000 H-1B visa holders were believed to be working in the United States, up from about 360,000 in 1998. This means an annual addition of about 150,000 workers a year into the American workforce.
Compare this stream to the supply of engineers coming from American higher education (many of whom are foreigners)? In 2004, there were about 70,000 bachelor, 40,000 master, and 6,000 doctoral degrees were awarded by American colleges and universities. This is from the American Society of Engineering Education
H1B Visa (Professional in a Specialty Occupation) allows a U.S. employer to fill a position requiring the minimum of a baccalaureate in the particular field with a qualified worker from abroad. The foreign worker must possess that U.S. degree or an acceptable foreign alternative. In some cases, a combination of studies and relevant experience may substitute for the degree if it is determined by a credentials expert to qualify the foreign professional. The large majority of H1B visa holders are believed to be engineers.
Per Barrett:

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Immigration officials to continue to impersonate OSHA safety trainers

In July 2005 federal immigration officials impersonated OSHA safety trainers in a sting to lure and arrest illegal aliens working for subcontractors at an airforce base in North Carolina. See below for the first paragraphs of a New York Times article on that event.
The blog Confined Space now reports that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials reportedly plan to continue this tactic, according to Inside OSHA (paid subscription):

Immigration officials told immigration and labor groups during a closed-door meeting Jan. 30 that the department will continue to have its agents pose as officials from other agencies, including OSHA, to nab illegal immigrants at work sites, despite earlier signals the policy would be dropped. The meeting was set up to discuss last year’s controversial sting operation where ICE officials posed as OSHA employees, which had prompted an outcry from labor groups and concerns from OSHA.

OSHA was not present at the meeting.

ICE officials told attendees of the meeting that the department’s first priority is national security and public safety and they would not change their controversial sting policy, according to sources involved in the discussions. In a letter sent to [the National Immigrant Law Center] NILC last year, ICE officials said they would no longer continue the practice, however, they now say they view everything from a threat-based level and would continue to increase their work site enforcement of food production companies and industries related to national security, the sources say.

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TN’s program for driver’s license and Real ID

What is going on with driver’s licenses and immigrants? And what is Real ID?
The State of Tennessee is cited as a state intent on making a driver’s license or certificate available two individuals without requiring a valid social security number. According to a recent AP story published in the Washington Post (registration required), Tennessee continues to have a liberal policy towards awarding of driver’s licenses. This is at a time when state governments are beginning to struggle to comply with the Real ID requirements Congress imposed in 2005, to be effective in 2008.
The AP reported on 1/29/06 that

Tennessee has issued more than 51,000 certificates since it became the first state to offer them in July 2004, but not every certificate has gone to someone living there.

The disclosures come as Tennessee’s certificate system is being studied as a possible model for handling “non-conforming drivers” under the Real ID program recently enacted by Congress that will set a national standard for driver’s licenses by 2008.

Although the words “not valid for identification” appear in bold red letters on the face of the wallet-size certificates, banks accept them as legal ID.

“What we tried to do in Tennessee was to recognize that there are people who may be legally here but they are not completely documented,” Gov. Phil Bredesen said.

Tennessee had started licensing illegal immigrants, without a Social Security number requirement, in early 2001. More than 180,000 obtained licenses before 9-11 fears set in. The driving certificates were created in 2004 to satisfy homeland security concerns while allowing illegal immigrants to drive with certified proficiency.

Here is a brief analysis of Real ID when Congress passed it in May 2005 as part of a supplemental budget act. The following was excerpted from

According to the bill, the Homeland Security Department will be responsible for setting those standards. Under the Real ID Act, driver’s licenses and personal ID cards must include the cardholder’s legal name, date of birth, address, gender, signature, card number, digital photograph, physical security features to prevent tampering, counterfeiting or duplication and common machine readable technology with defined minimum data elements.

State motor vehicle administrators must verify the validity of at least four feeder documents, such as a Social Security card or passport, before issuing driver’s licenses or personal ID cards.

By Sept. 11, states must sign a memorandum of understanding with DHS to use the automated Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements system to verify the legal presence of a driver’s license applicant who is not a U.S. citizen. States must capture digital images of applicants and electronically exchange driver histories with other states.

According to the bill, the new measures would take effect in three years, possibly affecting travel and access for some individuals. For example, federal officials could stop people from boarding a plane or entering a building if they have a driver’s license or personal ID card from a state that does not comply with the federal standards.

The National Immigration Law Center issued in October 2005 a comparison of application requirements for U.S> Passport and “Real ID” Driver’s License.
National Employment Law Project contributed analysis used in the NILC’s study.

Size of the illegal alien population (2000 – 2005)

We will be addressing this matter multiple times as we explore in the future alternative ways of measuring the size of this population. This posting focuses on methods of measurement.
The Center for Immigration Studies summarizes how the Federal Current Population Survey handles this matter, in its Immigrants at Mid-Decade: A Snapshot of America’s Foreign-Born Population in 2005.

It is well established that illegal aliens do respond to government surveys such as the decennial census and the Current Population Survey. While the CPS does not ask the foreign-born if they are legal residents of the United States, the Urban Institute, the former INS, the Pew Hispanic Center, and the Census Bureau have all used socio-demographic characteristics in the data to estimate the size of the illegal population.15 Our preliminary estimates for the March 2005 CPS indicate that there were between 9.6 and 9.8 million illegal aliens in the survey. It must be remembered that this estimate only includes illegal aliens captured by the March CPS, not those missed by the survey. By design this estimate is consistent with those prepared by the Census Bureau, Immigration and Nationalization Service (INS), Urban Institute, and Pew Hispanic Center.16 While consistent with other research findings, it should be obvious that there is no definitive means of determining whether a respondent in the survey is an illegal alien with 100 percent certainty. We estimate that in 2000, based on the March 2000 CPS, that there were between seven and 7.2 million illegal aliens in the survey. This means about 2.5 to 2.7 million, or about half of the 5.2 million growth in the foreign born between 2000 and 2005 was due to growth in the illegal population. We also estimate that 3.6 to 3.8 million or almost half of the 7.9 million new arrivals are illegal immigrants.