As an attorney, it is clear to me that when it comes to our immigration laws, unfortunately the myths far outweigh the facts. For instance, some people still think that illegal aliens take jobs away from Americans. That is simply false.
The great rise in undocumented labor in America took place between 1996 and 2006. During that 10-year period, our economy experienced an average of 4 percent unemployment, which even the most conservative economists consider to be "full employment," meaning that everyone who actively sought a job could find one.
Undocumented labor also makes up a great portion of construction, agricultural and labor-intensive jobs. The demand for labor in industries such as housing, building and restaurants was so high between 1996 and 2006 that only undocumented workers could do the job at the rate our economy demanded and at the wages employers were willing to pay.
The myth that immigrants do not pay taxes is also pervasive and untrue. Most good employers deduct state and federal taxes from their workers' paychecks. Employers who do not report their workers' pay by filing the proper tax forms are in violation of federal law and subject to scrutiny by the Internal Revenue Service. Also, individuals seeking to legalize their immigration status would need to prove they have filed the proper income tax returns for the last 10 years. That is why an increasing percentage of the undocumented obtain personal identification numbers so that they can properly file their income tax returns.
There are two more points to consider. First, there is a reported billion-dollar surplus in Social Security because of workers who use fake Social Security numbers in order to work. Second, every individual seeking an immigration benefit will be fingerprinted and undergo an criminal background check before he or she can obtain legal status. The time for reform of the immigration laws is now. The only issue is whether Congress will listen to the facts and not the myths.
LUCAS T. NASCIMENTO