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The real pressing issues affecting the USA

“I don´t get why you are so obsessed with defending illegals and this immigration crack down. You are a US citizen, and besides, there are more pressing issues than to be wasting your time and resources on criminals. Because they, after all, broke the law”.

(Me: deep, deep breath).

Let me start with your most important statement there: “There are more pressing issues”.

You are absolutely right. I wish the President and his administration would realize that there are serious and urgent problems with our security, economy and safety before planning to spend an additional $38. 8 billion dollars to persecute undocumented immigrants.

Just based on the rough estimates of his recently released memorandum we have a rough calculation of: detention facilities that will cost $9 billion dollars,  hires of new border patrol agents $8.6 billion, plus cost of  building the wall $21 billion. All ads to about $38.8 billion.We don´t have exact numbers yet, but let´s pretend we can use that estimate.

What are some other pressing issues that directly affect us where we could use that money?

  • Let´s start with your future retirement.

Perhaps you have a 401 K, or perhaps you don´t. But most likely you are paying to Social Security and hope to get some benefits back.

Well, as a result of changes to Social Security enacted in 1983, the trust fund reserves are projected to become exhausted after 2037. At the point where the reserves are used up, continuing taxes are expected to be enough to pay only 76 percent of scheduled benefits, according to the Social Security Administration´s  website.

“Where are they going to get the money?” asked Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over Social Security. “They don’t ever seem to give any consideration to how deeply in debt our country is and how difficult it’s going to be to get out of it.”, reported the Seattle Times. 

How big is our debt? “At the end of FY 2017 the gross US federal government debt is estimated to be $20.1 trillion, according to the FY17 Federal Budget.”

But shall we spend $38.8 billion deporting undocumented immigrants?

Only if we think it is wise to lose about $13 billion annually of contributions to Social Security.

In case you forgot, “Social Security is financed by a 12.4 percent tax on wages. All Workers pay half and their employers pay the other half. The tax is applied to the first $118,500 of a worker’s wages, a level that increases each year with inflation”, explained the Seattle Times.

This includes undocumented immigrants that work here, pay to the fund, but cannot collect benefits.

According to Politifact ,“about 3.1 million unauthorized immigrants who worked and paid Social Security taxes in 2010 — about 600,000 of them at some point had work permits and overstayed terms of their visas, about 700,000 used fraudulent birth certificates to get a Social Security number, and about 1.8 million used a Social Security number that did not match their name”. (yes this is a crime, but hold on).

SSA estimated this group of unauthorized immigrants and their employers generated $13 billion in payroll taxes in 2010.

So approximately $13 billion to SSA yearly goes to the trust fund that will provide YOUR benefits.

How about the roads? Or dams? Or even houses? 

We should be focusing on rebuilding our country, or we will be in serious trouble.

We could be using some political capital and money to fix our water infrastructure and protect our reservoirs, for example. “Water is the biggest hidden challenge we have now. I can tell you, nine times out of 10, when people are talking about infrastructure, they’re talking about roads and bridges. But water is literally hidden – it’s underground, in most cases – and we don’t think about it until something happens”, said Robert Puentes, director of the Metropolitan Infrastructure Initiative at the Brookings Institution, to USA Today. And yet, we go and give the green light to the Dakota Pipeline.

We have heard recently about the structural problems with the Oroville Dam, but the story is not new, and it is not happening just in California.

“Globally, the U.S. ranks 19th — behind Spain, Portugal and Oman — in the quality of its infrastructure, according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report.1 The American Society for Civil Engineers (ASCE), in its annual Infrastructure Report Card, gave the U.S. a D+, saying we need to invest some $3.6 trillion by 2020 to upgrade our infrastructure.2”. This article by fivethirtyeight, explains the construction crisis in the USA and how difficult it is to finance those improvements.

But, besides the issue of the financing, who is going to build those roads and bridges?

Earlier this year, the National Association of Home Builders estimated there were around 200,000 unfilled construction jobs in the United States, an 81 percent increase in the last two years.

Who is helping fill those jobs?

About half of construction workers in Texas are undocumented, and nationwide 14 percent lack authorization for employment in the U.S., according to the Workers Defense Project, an Austin group that advocates for undocumented laborers, reported Bloomberg.

Reuters reported that “the ratio of construction job openings to hiring, as measured by the Department of Labor, is at its highest level since 2007”.

“The labor shortage is getting worse as demand is getting stronger,” said John Courson, chief executive of the Home Builders Institute, a national nonprofit that trains workers in the construction field.

How about violence? Should we not worry about all those “criminals”?

Violence is an important issue. But one that has not much to do with illegal immigration.

To start with, violent crime in the USA has been falling steadily since the early 1990, according to the data compiled by the FBI and reported by politifact.

Several studies have concluded that immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than people born in the United States, reported the New York Times.

Even the Libertarian Cato Institute agrees with that conclusion and the decades long research supporting the findings, “homicides and robberies in the most immigrant-dense cities fell further than elsewhere in the country following a surge in immigration in recent years. It is no surprise that America’s crime rates plunged as immigration surged in the 1990s.

Immigrants also reduce crime rates by infusing new capital into rundown areas. Studies have shown that filling abandoned buildings and fixing up neighborhoods makes residents less likely to commit crimes, and new residents also fill public coffers, which can be invested in better law enforcement.

However, there are very confusing statistics (often misquoted) that paint immigrants as violent offenders. USA today ran a very good article dismantling the way the data is used by both sides of the debate.

In its conclusion, the author Alan Gomez, uses this quote to settle the disagreement:

“There’s no evidence that immigrants are either more or less likely to commit crimes than anyone else in the population,” Janice Kephart, said, from the “the Center for Immigration Studies, which opposes any kind of plan to grant legal status to undocumented immigrants and regularly testifies in Congress against them.

But there was a 10% increase of murders in some major cities in 2015 (after historic lows), and according to the data by the FBI that increase is a result of “an increase in the murders of black men, and by an increase in the number of gun murders. At least 900 more black men were killed in 2015 than in 2014, according to FBI data”, reported The Guardian.

Violence is a pressing issue. But we should be focusing on the way guns are used in this country and who can get access to the guns.

After all, there are on average 12,000 gun homicides a year in this country, and 62% of firearm deaths are suicides. Not only that, but seven children are killed ON ANY GIVEN DAY in the US by a gun.

But then, there is the NRA and its hold on the GOP.  We have gotten to the point where giving guns to seriously mentally sick people is considered more important than enacting safety regulations to protect our children and people at schools and movie theaters.

Yes, there are more urgent issues than to be wasting our time and resources on persecuting undocumented immigrants. These are people who contribute to our economy, pay taxes, fill jobs, and are themselves running away from violence and unbearable living conditions in their own home countries.

There are smarter ways to fix our immigration problem, secure our communities and spend $38.8 billion.

Yes, people who come to this country without documents broke the law. Yes, it should not be that way. But I just don´t think that is where our money or our efforts should be right now.

There are more pressing issues today.

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