Immigrants with temporary legal status — whom President Donald Trump is trying to deport — want Americans to know that they pay billions of dollars in taxes to the IRS every year.
To be more precise, they pay about $4.6 billion in federal, state, and local taxes each year, according to a new report from researchers at the University of Southern California, the left-leaning Center for American Progress, and the National TPS Alliance, which advocates on behalf of immigrants with Temporary Protected Status (TPS). These families, most of whom are from Central America, also spend about $1.5 billion each year on mortgage payments and $2.8 billion in rent.
That flies directly in the face of one of Trump’s main arguments against immigration.
In addition to saying that immigrants are criminals, rapists, drug dealers, and diseased animals, Trump has also accused immigrants of taking jobs away from Americans, lowering wages, and costing the US government billions of dollars. Thus, he justifies cutting legal immigration and pushing for a border wall as a way to relieve American taxpayers and workers from the burden he says immigrants pose to the country.
But this myth keeps getting harder for him to justify. Trump’s own businesses, and his presidency, have made it clear that low-skilled immigrants are a crucial part of the US economy and even the federal government.
This latest report is yet another data point. The estimates in the report include households with at least one immigrant that has Temporary Protected Status (TPS), plus households where at least one person is eligible for the program, which offers protection to immigrants from certain countries experiencing war or natural disaster. It also include households that are part of a smaller program, known as Deferred Enforced Departure (DED).
Here are the states that get the most tax money from those two groups:
Deportation protection from TPS and DED allow 320,000 immigrants from Central America, Haiti, Liberia, Nepal, Somalia, Liberia, Sudan, and South Sudan to live and work legally in the United States. Congress can grant TPS to certain immigrants if a natural disaster strikes or if a war breaks out back home. The White House can grant DED to immigrants from countries facing political or economic instability.
Starting back in the 1990s, these workers have been building homes, cooking at restaurants, and cleaning offices and hotels. They’ve bought homes and started families. Every president has renewed their two-year work authorization, except President Donald Trump. He wants to send them packing.
So TPS workers are reminding Americans — including the president — how much the country needs them.
“Friends, we are not here asking for charity. ... We contribute billions in tax dollars that help pay for roads, schools, and yes, even government salaries. We have paid our taxes for years, even decades. We are already a permanent part of this community, and it is time for Congress to recognize it,” Jose Palma, a paralegal from El Salvador with TPS, said in a statement on Wednesday.
Palma is a coordinator at the National TPS Alliance, which is pushing Congress to pass the Dream and Promise Act, a House bill that would establish a path to permanent legal status for TPS, DED, and DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) immigrants.
Trump is trying to cancel TPS for thousands of immigrants
The president has been trying to revoke work authorization granted to thousands of immigrants from Central America for more than a year.
In January 2017, the Trump administration announced that about 260,000 Salvadoran immigrants with TPS would no longer be able to live and work legally in the United States after July 2019. He also announced an end to similar protections for immigrants from Haiti, Sudan, and Nicaragua.
Trump’s move to end the TPS programs is now tied up in a court challenge, and most temporary legal protections have been extended to 2020 as the case winds its way through federal court.
But if Trump succeeds in scrapping TPS, it will have a huge impact on the United States — including the capital, Washington, DC, where Trump lives.
About 9,000 janitors and maintenance workers from El Salvador — many of whom have TPS — have been sweeping, scrubbing, and vacuuming government buildings in Washington, DC, for decades. They have cleaned places like the US Department of Justice, the US Department of Agriculture, Ronald Reagan National Airport, and Walter Reed National Medical Center, where members of Congress and presidents are treated.
I interviewed several of them in January 2017, right after Trump first announced his plan to end TPS for Salvadorans.
“It shattered my world,” Helen Avalos said on the phone during her shift as a janitor at Walter Reed, where she has cleaned the presidential hospital suite after Trump’s appointments. Avalos has two American children and obtained TPS in 2002.
Avalos said that she and 45 other janitors at the medical center have TPS. This means that they will probably lose their jobs because they will no longer have valid work permits after the program ends.
Sonia, who works as a janitor at Reagan National Airport and asked to be identified by an alias out of fear of retaliation from her employer, said she and her co-workers were furious when they heard the news.
“I came to escape from the gangs; now he wants to send us back?” she told me during a break at work. “[Gang members] were trying to recruit my son, and they kill people who refuse to join.”
Sonia works with 15 other Salvadoran immigrants who have temporary status. “I just pray to God to soften the hearts of the [politicians] here,” she said.
Most TPS immigrants work low-skilled jobs in industries that are experiencing a major labor shortage. Here is the breakdown:
Employers are struggling more than ever to fill jobs at a time of record low unemployment. If TPS workers lose their legal status, it’s unclear where the Trump administration plans to find workers to replace them. More than likely, there is no plan.