A Republican congressman accused the White House and Congress of being "complicit" in the sex trafficking of undocumented minors on Monday.
In comments apparently prompted by the rising number of unaccompanied minors that have been crossing through the U.S.-Mexico border in Southern Texas, U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) said the debate over comprehensive immigration reform is prompting undocumented minors to enter the United States illegally. Railing against the possibility of comprehensive immigration reform, Gohmert went on to argue that legalizing the status of undocumented minors wouldn't help the economy because children do not pay taxes.
"When legal status and amnesty is talked about here in Washington, it becomes a magnet and draws people in. And for all of the children that are drawn in illegally, you know that some get sucked into sex slavery," Gohmert said Monday in comments posted to the web by The Raw Story, adding, “Because of the talk of amnesty in this town and because we do not have a secured border, then this administration, and this Congress also, is complicit in helping lure people into sex trafficking,”
Gohmert also criticized the practice of finding guardians for unaccompanied minors in the United States.
“It’s time to start acting responsibly," Gohmert said. "And that does not mean that we continue to send the message that is being signaled by this administration that, ‘gee if you can just get to the United States as a child, we’ll take care of you. And if we can’t find your parents who are illegally in the country, then we can find someone to take care of you legally. We’re going to allow you to overwhelm this country.’”
Unaccompanied minors from countries other than Mexico who cross the border illegally must be transferred to a refugee resettlement office, where officials then try to locate a family member to take custody of them while their immigration case moves forward in court, according to The New York Times. Most of the recent wave of unaccompanied child migrants have come from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, often fleeing violence or seeking a family member residing in the United States.
The Texas conservative then theorized about the economic impact of legalizing the status of undocumented minors and other undocumented immigrants.
“We have people saying 'oh if we just legalize everybody that’s already here, all of this new tax money will come flooding in',” Gohmert said. “Well people that are working are already paying taxes. And we have an awful lot of people that are working who are not legally here who are getting vast amounts of money for their child tax credit that allows them to get back more money than they put it. But there can be no debate that young children who are not working, even if they’re legalized -- for those who make the argument, ‘gee look at all the tax money that the federal coffers will be getting if we just legalize everybody here' -- that’s a bogus argument.”
Economists generally disagree. Though children do not pay taxes, as Gohmert points out, children grow into teenagers and adults who generally would pay taxes upon securing employment. Allowing undocumented immigrants a pathway to legal status would increase those migrants’ economic opportunities, boosting the overall economy. Passing the DREAM Act would add $329 billion to the U.S. economy and create 1.4 million jobs by 2030, according to a 2012 study by the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning think tank.
The general consensus that has emerged among economists is that immigrants -- both documented and undocumented -- have an overall positive effect on the U.S. economy, though in some areas of the labor market, they can create competition with U.S.-born workers.
Economists also point out that undocumented workers pay into programs like Social Security, housing taxes from either renting or owning property and other taxes, from which they are prohibited from taking benefits. Undocumented workers may legally claim a tax benefit on behalf of their U.S.-born children.
Watch Gohmert's comments in the video above.