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Illegal Immigrant Tax Scam

Updated on February 26, 2019
Zack Dylan profile image

Zack has worked along side illegal immigrants in several different industries. He hopes to one day improve the immigration laws we have.

Do they pay taxes? Well yes and no...

I have worked several jobs through the years where I was the minority. By "minority", I mean I was the only white guy surrounded by 30 to 60 other guys who were all from countries south of the river. The language spoken on the job was Spanish, and my coworkers were comprised of El Salvadorian, Honduran, Mexican, and Guatemalan nationals. Living in Texas where everything from the State's Name sake, to street names, to the south west flair, is largely influenced by Hispanic culture. I find it romantic, and reminiscent of a simpler time, and even find it quintessential to what makes this state my home. The only culture shock that occurs when I am around is when I walk into a business and begin speaking fluent Spanish. I'm sure I am responsible for a fair bit of whip lash as people do their double takes, and convince themselves that they did in fact just see a guy that was white as mayonnaise with a red beard speak speak as if he may have been here on vacation from Mazatlan.

Texas and diversity are not often used in the same sentence, albeit a disservice to reality. In the neighborhoods that I grew up in, I was able to see how five different cultures cooked a pig. Central American, East Pacific Islanders, Black folks, Rednecks, and Asians all cook pigs, in different ways. Some prefer in the ground, others over an open pit, while a segment seems to like the smoker best. Some want it seasoned with spices, and some want it sweet. I was exposed to so many different parts of the world while never leaving the Dallas/ Fort Worth Metroplex. We were a low income family just like all of our neighbors, but as a kid we didn't know what poor meant.

As life would turn out, college was a little bit more expensive than I thought it was going to be, so I bailed out... Ok, so it was approximately one metric shit ton more expensive than I anticipated. (Good luck telling a kid making $6.50 an hour that he is going to have to cough up 80 grand for his degree.) So I opted to go to work.

I tended to gravitate towards jobs that required physical labor as I figured I had a weak mind but a strong back. I also figured the number of people that could or would perform those jobs was probably a little lower than those that wanted 9-5 office jobs. It was easy to get the jobs. Most job applications included holding a mirror directly beneath your nose.

Through the course of these jobs I worked with a lot of folks who "solo hablo espanol." Many of them I would even call friends. Some had wives and kids, others had loved ones back home. But we all showed up to work for the same reason, and that was to collect a check.

The 2016 elections brought about some very tense times at work with the increasing social pressures and political rhetoric boiling over. I would get to sit around at the end of the day and hear the different concerns that all of my coworkers had with the incoming administration. They were all concerned, but not all for the exact same reasons. Some were concerned because they were DACA recipients, and others were concerned that they would be unable to renew their work VISA. The guys that had kids here were not concerned because they knew deportation wasn't on the table for them, and they looked forward to spending their lives here in the US.

There was a number of guys who left their family in their home country while they came and worked here. Their goal was to send money back, save up and buy a home and retire in their late 40's. This is where Fox, CNN, MSNBC, and all the other alphabet news agencies get it wrong. They all paint with single strokes. One school of thought says "Immigrants are either victims and are just looking for a better life", or "they show blatant disregard for the law and take advantage of US citizens".

The reasons Isaac and Tomacho (these are nicknames so as not to identify the actual individuals) were here in the US, the ways they got here, and their plans, and regards for the law were totally different. These two trabajadors were two that I was closest with. Both were good guys, and would give the shirt of their back. Every meal was shared, almost forcefully with me, as this was just their custom and proof of upbringing. Tomacho left his country when he was 16 years old with the woman that is his wife today. They entered the country illegally by walking through the desert in a caravan and getting picked up in a box truck.

In time, they had kids, started a life, and can no longer return home because of political and drug related violence. Tomacho doesn't have high hopes to receive citizenship, but waits in hopes that 17 years is more than enough time to one day walk to his mailbox to receive the validation he has worked towards for so long. Tomacho does his best to follow the law and raises his children well since he wants the best he can for them. Isaac is here for a totally different reason. Isaac is 40 years old. He has been in and out of the US several times. This most recent time he came over by car, using his passport under the guise of travel to enter the country and return to the job he has held for 7 years.

Isaac has plans of working another 5 years, going back to Mexico and retiring. This is a dream that several of our coworkers shared. Driven by the lower cost of living in Mexico, and the household income is 8.5 times higher, they would come and work 8 to 11 months of the year and go back home and repeat the process. Each time they would come back in to the US they would get an apartment that was being sublet to a group of 6 to 8 of them in a 2 bedroom apartment. They each chip in their $80 a month and they keep their costs low, enabling them to save much larger amounts of cash. Each month they send a portion of their pay home for their wives and kids.

The methods by which they enter the country and how they stay here vary. Some of them would overstay travel VISAS, others would go back just frequently enough to keep their VISAS valid. Some would simply risk it, since local law enforcement does not enforce immigration laws, and the odds of being in an ICE raid are slim. Now where they all begin to become similar, no matter their situation was in how they would get a job. A common myth is that undocumented workers get paid under the table, often lower wages than US citizens, and sometimes never getting paid at all. While I'm sure this does happen, I can say with 100% certainty that it never happened in any of the jobs I worked, and none of the guys I worked with had ever reported this happening to them. I did have one coworker threaten to walk off of a job when a contractor refused to pay him for the days work, but also threatened to "take his work with him." This was his polite way of saying he would tear down the 25 panels of sheet rock he had helped hang earlier that day.

Texas uses a system called E-verify, which is really a joke seeing how easy it is to beat. All Isaac and Tomacho would do is go to downtown Dallas, find a large homeless population and offer $400 to anyone who would let them use their SS#. $400 is good money for someone who is needing their next drug fix, or already is mentally unstable, and at any rate will claim they lost their wallet if questioned about it later. We will call these people John and Rob. At this point Isaac and Tomacho would now copy down John and Rob's social security numbers and names. Next they go to a Bazaar (a flea market) and pay another $60 to get a social security card made up, and a fake License with their own picture on it. These things looked legit, but they made it clear that you never hand it over to a state agency for any reason. It was for job purposes only. Now they are ready for the hiring process. When they sit down with HR, they hand over their documents for copies to be made and stored, and begin filling out their tax withholding forms. At this point they will claim 8 or 9 deductions so as not to flag the IRS, and they now go to work.

This whole ordeal ensures that they receive a paycheck. Companies pay market rates to keep up appearances, and would hate to get it wrong and look like they are being discriminatory. Isaac and Tomacho pay next to nothing in taxes compared to me who was claiming one dependent. After all the IRS would send me letters, and court notices, but what would it matter to Isaac and Tomacho? The person the IRS really wanted. Once a year they would go in and get all of their withholding forms changed over to the new credentials so as to protect themselves from getting caught. $500 in fake ID's to in turn save another three to maybe six thousand dollars or more is one heck of a ROI. When tax return season comes around, of course they don't get a return, but if we were calculating their taxes with correct number of deductions claimed, they would owe massive amounts back to the IRS. They are paying into our much loathed tax system, just not their fair share, or even under their name, which makes prosecution that much more difficult.

Now Isaac has been in and out of the US for years, and he even had children here in the US, but they now live in Mexico. Isaac would use his daughters information to apply for food stamps since he technically had no income. The state would give him over $700 in food stamps. As far as the state was aware, Isaac was unemployed. He would use what he needed of this and sell the rest for cash. He would also apply for housing assistance. Remember that apartment that they were all living in? Well it is under the name of Isaac's daughter. While he never told me how much he was receiving for housing assistance, I can only imagine it was the maximum amount possible since once again, he has no income. Isaac sublets out his (likely free) apartment once again pocketing the cash from this deal.

Tomacho did not do the exact same thing. Instead his housing was almost paid for a few years while he saved up enough to buy a small house in cash. His status as "unemployed" was helpful for him when he needed it to be in other situations as well. He would use this to get medicaid instead of paying for the expensive health insurance premiums I was paying for, he also was able to get food stamps as well. So while we had the same pay rate, I took home $1300 every two weeks while they were taking home $1800. I then had to use that paycheck to pay for my families rent, groceries, and insurance.

One of the most important things I learned through my years of working with the very people that have been pitted against Donald Trump in a war, is that change is necessary. The system we have is broken. We need reform more than ever. It is time that we stop using people as a political bargaining chip and start to realize there are victims of the law and victims of the crime.

In 2019, we must decide if we want to continue deeper into this rhetoric of blame, or if we want to start working in a direction that gets us any where but where we were yesterday. Is it really Trump's fault because the wall won't keep people like Isaac out, but will bar people like Tomacho? Is it the conservative's fault for claiming that they are all criminals, mooching off the tax payer? Or is it the left's fault for watering it down to the fact that these are just people who want a better life?

As a country we can't seem to agree on enforcing our current laws, or even what we should replace our current laws with.There are no absolutes, or unifying beliefs when it comes to immigration in America. If we don't strive to find unity in our own beliefs, we will all lose this battle we all believe is worth fighting.


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    • Zack Dylan profile imageAUTHOR

      Zack Dylan 

      16 months ago from Dallas

      I agree that families being torn apart is heartbreaking. I do also feel that we must realize that everyone has to take responsibility for the choices they make. For example, circumventing current immigration laws to come to the US and work here legally means that you make yourself susceptible to the punishments of violating those laws. If someone decided they want to open a dispensary in California, they knowingly commit felony sales of a controlled substance. The risk is that any day the feds can come in and raid them, break up their family, and send them to prison.

      Safe options and low risks come with low rewards. The truly egregious part is that what I wrote about in this article completely mitigates most of the risks that illegal immigrants deal with in the US. Local and state police rarely enforce immigration laws (all jurisdiction and policy dependant).

      They don't really have much of a disadvantage as long as employers think they are legal. But to commit tax fraud, ID theft, and abuse social services is all criminal. If I lied about my income to get food stamps or housing assistance, or if I used anyone else's ID to do anything, or if I claimed no income to Uncle Sam and didn't pay my taxes I would have quite literally a life time of charges. I wouldn't see the light of day again yet we (America) don't prosecute these crimes because of the optics. These are crimes that are allowable if you are illegal, but completely off the table if you are a citizen. The worst possible outcome is that you get deported, and your family can go with you. They aren't forced to stay here.

      I genuinely feel that it is each person's choice on how they live their life. If you think the risk is worth the reward then by all means that's your choice. But I don't care much for people complaining about the consequences of their actions when they knew the possibility existed that those consequences would come one day.

      I guess best explained this way.... There are two guys at a bar. The tall skinny guy makes an off color comment to the short fat guy and they begin exchanging words. The tall skinny guy takes a swing and the short fat guy beats him to a pulp. They both go to jail and the tall skinny guy sitting in his jail cell starts complaining about how unfair it is. How messed up that he gets his butt whooped and he goes to jail. He knew that fighting leads to jail but he took the first swing. He knew that swinging on the short fat guy could bring on retaliation. He knew that making off color comments would get a rose out of the short fat guy but he did it anyway. He fell victim to his own choices and poor calculation.

      I am very much in favor of major overhauls being made to our immigration system, but I'm in higher favor of doing more to bolster the Mexican economy and prop up a healthier government there. People don't flow in such large numbers between Canada and the US. If Mexico was healthier in terms of economy, crime would drop and people wouldn't feel a need to flee.

    • Angel Guzman profile image

      Angel Guzman 

      16 months ago from Joliet, Illinois

      Undocumented immigrants living in the United States are already at a disadvantage and must be clever and creative to live a decent life. Everyone is different with a different situation and it is absolute bullshit to break families apart. While the United States is far from perfect many not born here have many reasons for wanting to be here. It breaks my heart seeing the workplace raids and children at detention centers. I thought in the 1980s the Republican Party was all about the family. Its a real easy fix for Washington...let those undocumented pay a fine and apply for citizenship if they wish, and those individuals that are nothing but bad news send them back. Great read Zack and I'm glad you had these experiences.

    • Zack Dylan profile imageAUTHOR

      Zack Dylan 

      2 years ago from Dallas

      Hxprof, thank you so much.

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      I enjoyed reading this, and I walked away from it far better informed about the lives of illegal immigrants. Thanks for the article.


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