‘Nonsense’ claim immigrants in the U.S. illegally don't pay taxes, mortgages, rent | Fact check

The claim: 18 million 'illegals' are exempt from taxes, housing costs, vaccine requirements, unlike US citizens

A Sept. 19 Instagram post (direct link, archive link) shows a screenshot of a post on X, formerly Twitter, that points out supposed benefits for people living in the U.S. illegally.

“18,000,000 illegals don’t have to pay taxes, but you do,” the post reads. “18,000,000 illegals don’t have to pay rent or mortgages, but you do. 18,000,000 illegals don’t have to get vaccinated, but you do.”

It was liked more than 3,000 times in seven days. The original X post was shared more than 10,000 times in nine days.

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Our rating: False

Experts say immigrants who lack permanent legal status pay rent, mortgages and many taxes just like citizens do. They also are subject to the same vaccine rules that govern citizens because those requirements are set by workplaces and schools and have nothing to do with immigration status, experts say.

Immigrants subject to taxes, housing costs, vaccine rules

The claim is “completely false,” Michelle Mittelstadt, a spokesperson for the nonprofit Migration Policy Institute, said in an email to USA TODAY.

Immigrants lacking permanent legal status pay the same sales and consumption taxes that other citizens do, and a significant number of them have federal and state taxes withheld from their paychecks, she said.

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While they do not have Social Security numbers, they may file their taxes after obtaining an Individual Tax Identification Number, according to the Internal Revenue Service. People who enter the country illegally pay nearly $12 billion each year in state and local taxes, according to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy.

A report by the Bipartisan Policy Center found immigrants lacking permanent legal status collectively subsidize citizens through the tax system because they pay many of the same taxes but are not eligible for many benefits – including refundable tax credits, Pell grants, student loans and nutrition programs, according to the report. They paid about $12 billion more into the Social Security system than they took out in 2010, according to the Social Security Administration’s most recent figures.

The claims about both housing costs and vaccines are “nonsense,” Michael Clemens, a professor at George Mason University and an expert on immigration economics, said in an email to USA TODAY.

Immigrants lacking permanent status have some additional hurdles to home ownership and renting, but they still must find and pay for some kind of housing like any other U.S resident.

Immigrants who entered the U.S. illegally are ineligible for federal Section 8 housing vouchers or public housing, according to the Congressional Research Service. Immigrants who have Individual Tax Identification Numbers may use those numbers to obtain mortgages, though they are not backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac and tend to be more expensive than those available to U.S. citizens, Clemens said.

"We have never heard of any willingness by financial institutions or private landlords to exempt unauthorized immigrants in blanket fashion from making mortgage or rental payments," Mittelstadt said.

And there is no difference between vaccination rules for legal U.S. residents and those who entered the country illegally, Clemens said.

“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 said.

The post also overestimates how many people in the U.S. immigrated illegally, both Clemens and Mittelstadt said.

That number is “almost certainly between 11 (million) and 11.5 million,” Clemens said, pointing to estimates from the Department of Homeland Security in 2018 and the Pew Research Center in 2021. The Migration Policy Institute estimated that number in 2021 to be 11.2 million, and the Center for Immigration Studies – a think tank that opposes immigration, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center – says there were 12.6 million who immigrated illegally as of May.

USA TODAY reached out to the social media user who shared the post but did not immediately receive a response.

The Associated Press also debunked the claim.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: False claim immigrants don't pay taxes, housing costs | Fact check