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Many of the attacks on immigrants are focused on the idea that undocumented immigrants use more benefits than they pay in taxes.  Advocates first need to highlight the multiple studies that have shown that even when you total up the limited services for which they do qualify -- public school education and emergency medical care for example -- undocumented immigrants pay significantly more in state taxes than states spend on those benefits.  The Texas State Controller, for example, estimated that undocumented immigrants added over $17 billion to the state economy and paid over $400 million more in taxes than they received in benefits from the state.

Progressives need to emphasize three key points beyond educating the population:

  • When draconian ID requirements are imposed, legal citizens, not undocumented immigrants, lose more benefits under such policies;
  • The costs of trying to screen out undocumented immigrants are higher than their current burden to taxpayers;
  • Federal level anti-immigrant politicians have made the problem worse for state and local leaders by denying federal aid for communities needing financial help.

State leaders need to both  document the myths promoted by anti-immigrant forces, but also promote policies that emphasize the ways investing in public services reflects our common values and the long-run economic benefits from such investments.

Core immigrants and public benefits legislation should: