Thursday, August 6, 2009

Joe Legal vs Jose Illegal

Some of you might recognize this email with the same title as this post which attempts to address the problem of illegal immigration here in California. It was forwarded to me without comment yesterday by a friend and I subsequently wrote up a reply to its various declarations. First the email:

Joe Legal vs.. Jose Illegal

You have 2 families... "Joe Legal" and "Jose Illegal". Both families have 2 parents, 2 children and live in California.

"Joe Legal" works in construction, has a Social Security Number, and makes $25.00 per hour with payroll taxes deducted.

"Jose Illegal" also works in construction, has NO Social Security Number, and gets paid $15.00 cash "under the table".

Joe Legal... $25.00 per hour x 40 hours = $1000.00 per week = $52,000 per year. Now take 30% away for state and federal tax. Joe Legal now has $31,231.00.

Jose Illegal... $15.00 per hour x 40 hours = $600.00 per week = $31,200.00 per year. Jose Illegal pays no taxes. Jose Illegal now has $31,200.00.

Joe Legal pays for Medical and Dental Insurance with limited coverage ... $1000.00 per month = $12,000.00 per year. Joe Legal now has $19,231.00.

Jose Illegal has full Medical and Dental coverage through the state and local clinics at a cost of $0.00 per year. Jose Illegal still has $31,200.00.

Joe Legal makes too much money to be eligible for Food Stamps or Welfare so Joe Legal pays for food... $1,000.00 per month = $12,000.00 per year. Joe Legal now has $7,231.00.

Jose Illegal has no documented income and is eligible for Food Stamps and Welfare. Jose Illegal still has $31,200.00.

Joe Legal pays rent of $1,000.00 per month = $12,000.00 per year. Joe Legal is now in the hole -<$4,769.00>.

Jose Illegal receives a $500 per month Federal rent subsidy, which entirely pays his rent of $500.00 per month = $6,000.00 per year. Jose Illegal still has $31,200.00.

Joe Legal now works overtime on Saturdays and gets a part time job after work to make ends meet.

Jose Illegal has nights and weekends off to enjoy with his family.

Joe Legal's and Jose Illegal's children both attend the same school.

Joe Legal pays for his children's lunches while Jose Illegal's children get free government sponsored lunches.

Joe Legal's children go home after school. Jose Illegal's children have an after school ESL program which, again, is provided free of charge.

Joe Legal and Jose Illegal both enjoy the same Police and Fire Services, but Joe Legal paid for them and Jose Illegal did not pay.
And now my response:
It seems to me that the more substantial problem here is not so much illegal immigrants coming to this country so much as it is the companies who hire them in order to save money and boost their own profit margins. If there were no under the table jobs available I suspect that far fewer people would be coming here illegally looking for work. And while I won't dispute the actual numbers included in this comparison (rent, food costs, insurance, etc.) I would take some exceptions to the assumptions made about their application.

If the state and local clinics are comparable to Joe's own doctor and dentist then why doesn't Joe just use them instead? I'd posit that he doesn't do this because they are not nearly as competent and efficient as his own medical professionals, hence Jose gets the level of treatment he pays for but no one is stopping Joe from doing the same.

Jose is also most definitely not eligible for food stamps nor welfare because he is an illegal immigrant. If his children were born in this country (and were therefore citizens) he could apply for food stamps only for them, yet even so millions of illegals who qualify for such do not avail themselves of the program because they either don't know or understand that they qualify or they're too afraid of being caught and deported by the government. But since Jose's kids are taking ESL classes they obviously came here from another country so they would not be eligible either.

Of the 7.1 million people living in federally subsidized housing, an estimated 29,570, or 0.4%, are "ineligible noncitizens." Concurrently, that means that only 0.29% (barely one quarter of one percent) of the estimated 10 million illegals in this country do so.

Working on Saturdays and weekends sucks for Joe but if he had gone to college or some kind of technical school (and he still can, of course) he would most likely have been able to get a higher paying job than construction, and as a U.S. citizen he would be eligible for federally subsidized student loans and grants that Jose would not be. Also, do you know many illegal immigrants who only work during the day Mon.-Fri. and not also at night and on weekends? Because I sure don't.

Jose's children would indeed get subsidized school lunches whether they were illegal or not because that falls under the aegis of the human rights programs we enacted as a country as part of the Welfare Reform Act of 1996. And while Joe's kids may not qualify for free lunches there are also many reduced price lunch programs (like I used when I was a kid) that he can apply for.

Are Joe's children barred from studying foreign languages at their school, or from participating in the many after-school programs available to them, or from even joining a sports team that has after-school practices? There are a myriad of free after-school activities that are provided by schools and local neighborhood programs that they could avail themselves of. If they choose to go straight home after school then that is exactly what it is: a choice. And isn't it a benefit to the country as a whole for everyone who lives here and does not speak English to learn the language? I would think that even those vehemently opposed to illegal immigration would agree with that line of thinking.

Since Joe pays rent he obviously does not pay property taxes (which subsidize police and fire departments) so technically he did not pay for those services but if his landlord is making a profit renting out his dwelling (if he isn't, then what's the point in doing so?) then his rent (as well as Jose's) does contribute to the taxes being paid on the property and thus both men indirectly help to subsidize the aforementioned public services they both receive.

Now I freely admit that illegal immigration is a problem that we must deal with as a nation. Millions of undocumented workers pour across our borders every year and despite the extremely expensive and at times draconian security measures that were put into effect following 9/11 the vast majority of the shipping containers entering our ports still go uninspected. And the blame for not taking action on these problems falls equally on both of our major political parties.

The Democrats won't crack down on illegal immigration because Hispanics are the fastest growing demographic in the country and make up a significant portion of their voting base, while the Republicans won't crack down on illegal hiring practices or insist on thorough inspections of cargo containers because it would hinder and disrupt the business interests of their lobbyists and donors (and each of these reasons also applies to the opposite party, to a certain extent).

The question of how to handle the problem of illegal immigration thoroughly yet realistically is highly complicated and calls for much more nuanced reasoning than this fictional comparison would have you believe. It's pretty easy to blame illegals for most of society's problems (and many do) but the reality of the situation is that we're a vast and populous nation with a highly complicated and interrelated network of commerce, industry, society and culture that makes the impact of one minority group of people rather insignificant as it relates to the comprehensive problems of the whole. I think that despite all of his hardships even Joe Legal would agree with me on that.
My friend is a pretty reasonable and level-headed guy so I doubt that he sent this to me with any kind of malice or prejudice, but rather more likely just to gauge my response (interestingly enough, this exercise very much reminded me of my inaugural post for this blog). And speaking of which: BD, I just saw the comment you left there at the time of this site's one year anniversary. FIRST! I vaguely remembered reading it some time back (alcohol was most likely involved in the level of vagary) but I couldn't find it again. Because of this I never thanked you for the compliments (which I always love) that you wrote at the time but I really do appreciate the words, amigo.


Denney Crane said...


Thank you for recognizing my post
for what it is, disinformation. I was beginning to wonder if anyone would ever read it and holler. I also agree that ” companies who hire them in order to save money” is a much more valid position. If jobs, freedom, hospital ERs and education for their children weren’t available, even legal immigration wouldn’t flood the country.

Your commentary is superb, your delivery awe-inspiring. Thanks for calling it what it is. Look forward to reading you.

JoeBama "Truth 101" Kelly said...

We have a few communities near mine that are known to have more than a few "illegals." Not to denigrate what your post said Mr. Crane, but to the best of my knowlege, the "illegals" around here, most of them seem to be roofers, get far less than $15 an hour. 7 to 9 bucks an hour is what I've heard.

I use quotation marks as a sign of at least some solidarity with the undocumented people. My ancestors came here for a better life. How can any of us in good conscience as Americans not at least have empathy for these people.

Chris OConnell said...

Very interesting post from both sides. Thanks for sharing.


JBW said...

Appreciate the compliments, Denney. Thanks for stopping by Brain Rage. You as well, Chris.

I hear you on the empathy tip T101, although I still think that we need vastly better security at our borders and ports. I don't blame illegal immigrants for doing what I would do myself were I in their shoes. Human nature is what it is, no matter how many laws we pass or walls we build.

Anonymous said...

In my opinion, except for "Native Americans" we are all here illegally!

Anonymous said...

Another minor detail about this post, which is appearing on a number of web sites: the math is wrong! 70% of $52K is $36,400, not $31,20. Most legal construction workers have union health insurance, which is not only quirte reasonable (fully employer paid?) but it includes hospitalization, something that is not available at "local clinics."

W. Copeland said...

Just an FYI - union construction worker insurance comes out of their pay. It is not paid by the company. There have been many times I wished it was. It was refreshing to see someone take this on instead of just forwarding it on, in spite of its' tone and lack of sources. Thank you.

JBW said...

Glad you dug it, Wendy. Hope you keep coming back.

Unknown said...

My only disagreement with your post would be in regards to your comment about the kids being in an ESL class, therefore proving they must not be from here. I grew-up in Minnesota and had quite a few kids in ESL that were most definitely born and raised here. They were brought up by parents who chose to only speak their native language in their home, therefore causing their kids additional help in English when they got to school.

My point: it isn't a fair assumption that they weren't born here solely based on their need for an ESL class.

It is not uncommon for immigrants to choose not to learn/speak English in America. As a country, we have given them so many reasons not to need to.

JBW said...

You would know better than I, Michelle. I only want Jose's kids to have enough to eat. Thanks for reading Brain Rage.

Les Hutton said...

Regarding availability of public housing to illegals... http://www.boston.com/news/local/breaking_news/2010/05/obamas_aunt_giv.html

JBW said...

Well then obviously Ms. Onyango is amongst the 0.29% of the estimated 10 million illegals in the U.S. who do so, Les. At least now she's pursuing legal means of staying in this country. Other than those obvious facts I don't quite get your point in commenting thusly but thanks for reading Brain Rage just the same.

Jose Bisono said...

Very good papi.

I know nothing about political, but my common sense and what i see every day is this.

Even if you give jose illegal a social security number wont guarantee that he is going to get a job paying taxes. I read this, and then i think what is going on? is all the problem because not paying taxes? what about legal people that work under the book? are not they more unfair that can do it the right way and wont? should i blame an illegal people or the employer?

This problem goes beyond of paying taxes.

thats what i think.

JBW said...

Quite right, jose. The problem is both the people working under the table and those who employ them. Thanks for reading Brain Rage.