A Modest Immigration Proposal


[Photo Credit]

Let’s start with Mr. Jorge Salinas, Mexican, 43, married, with one daughter about to graduate from college.  He speaks a little English, has gotten by in the construction industry doing a little framing, sheetrock work, some finish carpentry.  When things were slow, he picked up worked in the Home Depot parking lot installing ceramic tile.  When things were really slow, he worked as a roofer, but only when he was desperate–a summer roofing in Houston can kill you, even if you are Mexican.

He’s illegal.  His wife is illegal.  His daughter is not–she was born here.  He’s been here nearly 25 years.

Let’s deport him.  We’ll leave the wife alone, for now, but it’s time we sent Mr. Salinas back to Mexico.  He’s a parasite–he’s been freeloading, mooching off the rest of us, having “anchor” babies, soaking up mysterious entitlements, etc.  See http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/08/11/anderson-cooper-stuns-gop_n_678650.html, for example.

But wait, let’s make this guy settle up a bit before we haul him to the border.  Who knows, he may have some savings buried somewhere?  At the very least, we should hand him an invoice for what he “owes” America–just to make a statement.

Let’s start with the taxes he didn’t pay.  Let’s see, he came here when he was 18.  He worked for a medium size construction company for 10 years, then for another contractor for 5 years, then for cash for the last 10 years.  As it turns out, he used a fake social security number when he was employed by the first two companies.  Unfortunately, both of these employers deducted employment taxes from his check and remitted these taxes.  Since we’re adding things up, we should give him “credit” for these taxes–7.65% of average yearly earnings of 30k for 15 years.  That comes to $34,425.00.  To be fair, since we’re going to charge him for all the other freeloading he’s done, we should refund this (since he will never see any benefit from these taxes).

What about those 10 years of working for cash?  As it turns out, he wouldn’t have owed any federal income tax even if he had reported the income: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=125997180.

What about other entitlements?  Hmm.  Welfare?  Nope.  Unemployment benefits?  Nope.  Sales tax?  He paid that every time he purchased something, just like everyone else in Texas.  Property tax?  He rented an apartment and his landlord paid it from the rent he paid.  Shoot, there’s got to be something here. . .

Wait, let’s take a closer look at what he was paid. . .

As it turns out, he was paid less than other equally qualified workers because he was illegal (and employing him was a risk).  He spent a summer roofing in Houston in ’92.  He was paid $60 a day (and most of the days were ten hour days).  Over the summer, he was paid approximately $6000 LESS then an equivalent worker would have been paid.  To be fair, we should refund this amount.  To make things simple, let’s assume the roofing company kept 50% of the labor ”savings” and that 50% of the savings were passed along to 12 different homeowners, who each ”saved” approximately $250 on the purchase price of their homes.  We’ll send them all a bill.

As it turns out, after taking a look at his 25 years of employment, Mr. Salinas was shorted approximately 5k per year–a total of $125,000.00.  We’ll have to send out quite a few bills, but we should be able to recover a lot of it.

What about housing?  Where did he live while he was here? Certainly there were some freeloading shenanigans going on there.  Let’s see, because Mr. Salinas was illegal, he couldn’t rent a typical apartment.  For the first five years, he rented by the week–and he paid almost double what other legal renters paid for similar housing.  After five years, he knew his way around a bit, but he still paid a premium.  Landlords, unfortunately, were smart enough to realize the value of illegals with steady paychecks and no access to the U.S. court system.  Over his 25 years in the U.S. he overpaid an average of $100 per month–or a total of $30,000.00.  Since we’re deporting him, we should return this sum.  His landlords over the years will be good for it.

What about all the money he sent out of the country?  To be fair, as a percentage of his income, he sent less money overseas than most U.S. based multinationals–and he wasn’t doing it to evade taxes, so we can’t really count that against him.  But because he was illegal, he paid a significant premium to wire money.  He sent an average of $500 a month to his parents and his siblings in Mexico–but he paid nearly $50 per month in fees.  Half of that should be returned: $7,500.00.

Okay, what about his daughter?  She got a free education.  Maybe she’s the real problem?  But wait. . .  she’s a U.S. citizen.  We can’t really charge him for that, can we?  Let’s take a look at the situation.  His daughter is a citizen and has no intention of leaving the country.  She is a senior in college and her future looks bright.  Odds are that she will pay more in taxes over her lifetime than the cost of her education, so again, it looks like we’re getting a bargain.  If we deport Mr. Salinas, he won’t get to enjoy his daughter in her adult years, so maybe we owe Mr. Salinas the difference between what she is likely to pay in taxes over her lifetime and what society has invested in her to this point in her life?  She hopes to become a lawyer, so maybe we better wait on this calculation, because it doesn’t look like this is going to come out in our favor.

So what else can we charge him for?  Healthcare?  He paid cash, usually to after-hour clinics, when he was really sick.  He was afraid to go the emergency room–there would be paperwork, and who knew where paperwork could lead.  Insurance?  Although he worked in a risky industry, and the companies he worked for carried workers compensation, if he had been hurt, they wouldn’t have paid once they discovered he was illegal.  Mr. Salinas knew he wasn’t covered, but he took the risk.

But wait, he drove on our roads, he was protected by our military, he played soccer in our parks?  Can’t we charge him for that?  As it turns out he paid property taxes–indirectly, as a renter, so we can’t get him there.  He paid sales tax.  He spent most of his income in his own community.  He didn’t drive much–he was afraid of being pulled over.   He did play soccer in our parks, can we charge him for that?

Hmm.  I’m sure I’ve missed something, but let’s add things up:

+$34,425.00 – payroll taxes using a fake social security number (for benefits he will never receive)
+$125,000.00 – labor “savings” by employers and cost” savings” to customers
+$30,000.00 – return of housing premium paid to landlords
+$7,500.00 – return of premium for wire transfers (and other fees)

[we'll wait on calculating the difference between what his daughter will pay in taxes and the cost of her education, just to see how things turn out--or maybe we should leave this out, since she's a citizen?]

But I think we’ve got him for at least $100 a year for playing soccer in our parks:


So, summing this up:

+$196,925.00 LESS $2,500.00 = $194,425.00

So, yes, let’s deport Mr. Salinas.  He is BREAKING THE LAW, it’s as simple as that.  But to be fair, we should slip him a check for $194,425.00 while we’re taxiing him across the border–just to even things up.

If we don’t, then I’m not sure who’s exploiting whom.

About the author

Brent D. Beal is an associate professor of management in the College of Business and Technology at the University of Texas at Tyler. In his spare time, he enjoys debating religious and political issues, reading and writing short stories, playing Scrabble, and hanging out with his wife and their three kids.


  1. Bitherwack says:

    I hope you send this to the New Yorker.

    It needs a broader audience.

    And it’s the kind of thing I think they would like.


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