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Illegal Immigrants: Tax Time Dilemma

Every year, millions of undocumented immigrants in America make an astounding statement through their compliance with one particular law: filing taxes. As African immigrants continue to remain the strong arm for major cities across the United States by taking on low paying yet significant jobs, they are continuously denied a major part of the American dream- government aid. Ironically, millions of immigrants still feel the urge to abide by the tax laws of the land.

The phrase, "We pay taxes too,"--often uttered in defense of undocumented workers in America's a testament not to be taken lightly. Since 1990, more than 50,000 African immigrants have entered the United States each year. Experts say that untold billions of dollars are contributed each year by 8 to 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States. But since undocumented workers can't share in the fruits of their hard labor, the average first generation American may question how and why most undocumented workers even bother to file taxes.

The 'how' came in 1996 when the IRS began issuing Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITIN). The nine-digit numbers are freely given to immigrants to use in replace of social security numbers in order to legally report their earnings. Since then, the IRS has been widely criticized by two very conflicting groups. Many of those in favor of undocumented workers receiving benefits view ITIN numbers as the government's two-faced method of taking money from individuals who will never receive social security, Medicaid, or welfare benefits.

Those in favor of stricter immigration reforms however, have described the IRS as an enabler of illegal immigration. ITINs, which are formatted like social security numbers (XXX-XX-XXXX), have also aided in acts of corruption. Many have used the ID number to open bank accounts, apply for driver licenses, and rent apartments. In fact, the IRS acknowledged in the past that one fourth of issued ITINs didn't show up on tax returns.

Despite the whirlwind of debate, millions of undocumented immigrants bravely come forward each year to do what they feel is the honorable thing. Some feel that it's the best way to show that they are good, law abiding citizens. Others have expressed that paying taxes may lead to a leniencies in current immigration laws.

In 2004 President Bush proposed a guest worker program that will enable illegal immigrants to legally work in the United States for a specific amount of time. Though the program continues to face strong opposition, many see it as flicker of light at the end of a dark tunnel. In the mean-time, millions of undocumented workers continue to do their part in a land that boasts endless opportunities beyond their immediate reach. But during tax season, the testimony of such good, law abiding citizens is heard loud and clear.