NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


June 21, 2006

Illegal immigrants are now working for mainstream companies, and are hired and paid like any other American worker, says Eduardo Porter of the New York Times.

More than half of the estimated seven million illegal immigrants in the United States get a regular paycheck every week or two, and are now present in low-skilled jobs across the country; in total, they account for an estimated one in 20 workers in the United States, says Porter:

  • At the end of the year they receive a W-2 form, and come April 15, many file income tax returns using special ID numbers issued by the Internal Revenue Services so foreigners can pay taxes; some even get a refund check in the mail.
  • Illegal immigrants account for 12 percent of workers in food preparation, and more than a quarter of a million illegal immigrants are janitors, 350,000 are maids and housekeepers and 300,000 are groundskeepers.

However, the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 makes it a crime for companies to knowingly hire illegal immigrants, but they have little to fear, says Porter:

  • The penalty for knowingly hiring illegal immigrants includes up to six months in jail -- or up to five years in particularly egregious cases -- and fines that range from $275 to $11,000 for each worker.
  • Yet, fines are typically negotiated down, and employers are almost always let off the hook.
  • Only 46 people were convicted in 2004 for hiring illegal immigrants; the annual number has been roughly the same for the last decade.

However, life has been getting tougher; immigration authorities have been pursuing illegal immigrants more aggressively, and since October 2005, more than 2,100 people in "work site enforcement investigations" have been arrested, says Porter.

Source:  Eduardo Porter, "Here Illegally, Working Hard and Paying Taxes," New York Times, June 19, 2006.

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