Saturday, June 22, 2024

Undocumented Immigrants Paid Taxes, But Now They’re Aging Without Retirement and Health Benefits

In 1998, Noe Ramirez came to the United States from Mexico, hoping to work and earn enough money to buy a new taxi to replace the decadent one he drove in Mexico City. The part-time musician started construction work in Houston, often playing guitar on the weekends.

One day, while driving his bike to work, he was hit by a drunk driver, who fled, leaving him bleeding on the street with a broken spine. He was then hospitalized and taken to a local shelter for undocumented migrants, where he received medical care due to a county program for low-income residents.

Ramirez knows he won’t be able to afford medical bills if he needs medical attention again. He lives on his own with his wife. They often worry about getting older since they won’t receive the retirement and health insurance benefits that U.S. Citizens get.

“Every month, me and my wife save some money. But I know it will not be enough for my future, because I have no insurance,” he lamented.

Millions of other undocumented Latinx immigrants came to the United States when they were younger and healthier, looking for a better future. They worked in construction, agriculture, and landscaping; they staffed kitchens and bars or cleaned houses.

Now they are getting older and heading into retirement age, but older undocumented immigrants lack the resources to survive. Elderly care depends on some of the programs undocumented immigrants are not eligible for, despite paying taxes for years.

According to a report from New American Economy, bipartisan nonprofit, undocumented workers generated a surplus of $100 billion in Social Security program funds this decade and $35 billion in the Medicare Trust Fund from 2000 to 2011, none of which they were eligible to get back in benefits.

“They have no way to draw on that money they’ve paid into the system,” stated Tony Payan, Executive Director of the Center for the U.S. and Mexico at Rice University in Houston, Texas.

This situation has left many undocumented immigrants working long past the point when their bodies can handle it. Many of them worry about the future.

“At least I can give guitar classes. For that, it doesn’t matter if I am old. I will keep working,” Ramirez concluded.