For years, immigrants have been accused of draining our economy, depleting our schools and hospitals, and failing to pay taxes. But Amalia Cerrillo, owner of Amalia’s Translation and Tax Services, knew better. As an accountant, Ms. Cerrillo knows that everyone, regardless of their immigration status, has to pay taxes on income earned in this country. Even though the I.R.S. agrees that undocumented immigrants have pumped over $50 billion dollars into this economy from 1996 to 2003, this has not quelled those who churn out the “economic drain” myths.
The New York Times reported that on October 17, investigators from the Weld County Sheriff’s Office, armed with a search warrant, seized thousands of confidential tax returns from Ms. Cerrillo’s business. The Sheriff’s Office was looking for people with fraudulent Social Security numbers, often used by undocumented immigrants to get work.
Late last Monday, the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado filed a lawsuit in State District Court arguing that by seizing and retaining confidential tax information, the Weld County authorities had violated privacy rights of thousands of taxpayers.
Not only does Weld County’s latest tactic undermine the rudimentary principles of confidentiality in tax law, but it undermines efforts for immigrants to pump money into the economy and record their contributions to this country.