It's a familiar refrain: Undocumented immigrants come to the United States, contribute nothing and benefit handsomely from the Nanny State. And it's dead wrong.
In fact, according to estimates by the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy and the Immigration Policy Center, households headed by undocumented immigrants paid more than $157 million in sales and property taxes here in Tennessee in 2010. Nationwide, they paid an estimated $11 billion in state and local taxes.
A 2005 Economic Report to the President points out that half of all undocumented immigrants are "believed to be working on the books," meaning they contribute to the tax rolls but remain ineligible for nearly every federal public assistance program. Even if their employer withholds Social Security taxes, they'll never benefit from a system they pay into.
Tennessee lawmakers are proposing legislation this session that would seek to make every facet of life in the state even more inhospitable for undocumented immigrants (see Thursday's Scene). But they might consider the numbers, especially this one: Tennessee ranks 14th on the list of 50 for most taxes paid by those with no legal right to be here.