Here Illegally, but Choosing to Pay Taxes


Some undocumented workers hope that by establishing a record of their
time in the United States, it will be easier to gain citizenship later.

They may be here illegally, but tens of thousands of undocumented
immigrants are expected to abide by Uncle Sam’s rules by filing tax
returns — with the hope of someday becoming U.S. citizens.

Though there is no way of knowing how many people are filing taxes in
response to the national debate on immigration, Southern California tax
preparers are seeing a steady stream of clients eager to be on record
as taxpayers.

“There has definitely been an increase,” said Noemi Munoz, a senior tax
advisor at H&R Block in Los Angeles. “After whatever they’ve heard
on TV, I guess that’s why they want to file taxes.”

Some illegal immigrants have long paid taxes through special
identification numbers issued by the Internal Revenue Service for
people who are not eligible for Social Security numbers — whether out
of a sense of duty or hope for eventual citizenship.

But now that the U.S. Senate is considering a broad proposal that
could lead to citizenship for migrants who have lived here for at least
two years, there is a greater incentive to file a tax return. Some are
pulling out their W-2s and heading to the nearest tax office — not just
to pay this year’s bill but to catch up on back taxes. In interviews,
many said they wanted to prove how long they had lived in the United
States and that they would be good citizens.

“It’s important for all of us to pay our taxes, to have proof
that we are working in this country,” said Efrain Santa Cruz, 44, an
illegal immigrant from Mexico who recently filed his return, “so
someday maybe they will give us papers.”

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