CLAIM: There are more than 18 million immigrants in the country without authorization but, unlike U.S. citizens, they are not required to pay taxes, rent, or receive vaccines.
AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. Recent estimates put the figure of immigrants in the U.S. without authorization at about 11 million. Regardless, they face taxation, housing costs, and work or school immunization requirements like U.S. citizens.
THE FACTS: A popular post circulating on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, and Instagram is airing the false notion that immigrants in the U.S. without authorization aren’t burdened with taxes or other costs faced by citizens.
“18,000,000 illegals don’t have to pay taxes, but you do. 18,000,000 illegals don’t have to pay rent or mortgages, but you do,” the post reads. “18,000,000 illegals don’t have to get vaccinated, but you do.”
Most recent estimates put the figure of immigrants in the U.S. without authorization at around 11 million, though that figure could be slightly higher today given recent border crossings.
More importantly, the claims about taxes, housing costs and immunizations are false.
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“Unauthorized immigrants pay sales taxes, as does everybody else, and very significant numbers of them also have federal and state tax withholding in their paychecks,” Michelle Mittelstadt, a spokesperson for the the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute, said in an email.
Likewise, Michael Clemens, a professor of economics at George Mason University, said “undocumented immigrants pay taxes, amounting to tens of billions of dollars in local, state, and federal taxes per year” — even though they can’t access most benefits that U.S. citizens are entitled to receive.
The Social Security Administration estimated in 2010, for example, that such immigrants contribute $12 billion per year more to the Social Security system than they take out, he noted.
While immigrants in the country without authorization do not have Social Security numbers, they can file taxes using an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, or ITIN.
And Clemens noted that included in the immigrant population being referenced are many who applied for asylum upon arrival and were given permission to remain and work while their cases pend. Such applicants are eligible to potentially receive work authorization after 180 days.
The post’s other claims are similarly without merit.
“Of course unauthorized immigrants are expected to pay their mortgage or rent just like anyone else,” Mittelstadt said. “They are excluded from federally funded Section 8 rental vouchers and public housing.”
Such immigrants would also face vaccine requirements implemented through work or school, experts note.
“It is nonsense to suggest that undocumented immigrants face different Covid vaccine requirements,” Clemens said in an email. He added that “while some organizations such as employers or schools have vaccine requirements, those requirements apply to all people employed or enrolled there, regardless of immigration status.”
Clemens added that such persistent misconceptions about immigrants muddy an already tense policy debate with inaccurate information. “We don’t have a hope for good policy without the facts,” he said.
This is part of AP’s effort to address widely shared misinformation, including work with outside companies and organizations to add factual context to misleading content that is circulating online. Learn more about fact-checking at AP.