This is in response to the recent letter to the editor regarding immigration. We agree with Scott Nechville’s concern for ongoing deficit spending, the national debt, and income inequality. Interest payments already limit what the US government can do. The Pew Research Center reports that in 2019 the US paid $393.5 billion in interest, which was 8.7% of federal expenses. Greece and other countries have experienced significant problems when their national debts grew too large. Severe economic recessions are not the right time to limit economic stimulus measures, however, and the debt and deficit spending are not contributing factors influencing income inequality.
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Blaming deficit spending and income inequality on immigrants is simply scapegoating. Immigration decreased during the last administration, while deficit spending increased, even before the pandemic. Deficit spending and income inequality both result from failure to tie the minimum wage to inflation, as well as a lack of basic fairness in the tax system. Much of the tax system is designed to enable rich individuals and corporations to pay little or nothing in taxes. Labor income is taxed heavily while capital income is taxed lightly and wealth barely.
We vehemently disagree with Mr. Nechville on the financial impact of immigrants. He acknowledges that immigrants pay taxes, but incorrectly asserts that immigrants get more benefits than they pay in taxes. The National Immigration Forum states that legal immigrants are not eligible for Federal benefits until they have lived in the US for 5 years. Non-citizens pay into the Social Security System but are not eligible for benefits. Undocumented immigrants pay property and other taxes and are ineligible for most public assistance.
Immigrants provide much of the labor in a number of local industries, including food production, lodging, restaurants, and health care. In our area, in particular, we need immigrants to keep our economy running. Who knows anyone who has moved here for the climate? Nobody does – people move here for jobs. Many businesses have stated that continued immigration is vital to the maintenance of a healthy economy. We view immigrants as dynamic, strong individuals who – just as most of our ancestors – make this a powerful nation.
Mike Resman on behalf of Rochester Interfaith Immigrant Rights Coalition.