Legalizing Unauthorized Immigrants Would Boost the U.S. Economy
With the U.S. unemployment rate hovering at 10%, some have questioned whether or not now is really the right time for comprehensive immigration reform that includes the creation of a pathway to legal status for unauthorized immigrants already living in the United States. Underlying this uncertainty is the fear that native-born Americans will lose out on scarce jobs if currently unauthorized immigrants acquire legal status—despite the obvious fact that unauthorized immigrants are already here and in the labor force. However, the best available evidence suggests that neither legal nor unauthorized immigration is the cause of high unemployment, and that the higher wages and purchasing power which formerly unauthorized immigrants would enjoy were they to receive legal status would sustain new jobs. Read more...
Recent estimates from the Pew Hispanic Center indicate that the number of unauthorized immigrants in the United States has declined by roughly one million since 2007—bringing the total size of the unauthorized population to approximately 11.1 million. Coming after the release of similar estimates by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in January, these figures have provoked considerable speculation as to how much of the decline is attributable to the current recession, and how much is the result of heightened immigration enforcement. DHS, for instance, was quick to take credit for the drop, citing the money and manpower that have been poured into immigration enforcement by the Obama administration. However, immigration researchers were just as quick to point out that unauthorized immigration has always responded to the state of the U.S. economy, and that the downward trend captured by both Pew and DHS matches up closely with the beginning of the recession in December 2007. Read more...
The 2000 Census found that immigrants, while accounting for 12 percent of the population, made up nearly half of the all scientists and engineers with doctorate degrees. Nearly 70 percent of the men and women who entered the fields of science and engineering from 1995 to 2006 were immigrants. So it should come as no surprise that immigrants will help drive the green revolution. America's young scientists and engineers, especially the ones drawn to emerging industries like alternative energy, tend to speak with an accent. Yet, the connection between immigration and the development and commercialization of alternative energy technology is rarely discussed.
In IPC's lastest Perspective on Immigration piece, Richard T. Herman and Robert L. Smith explain how policymakers envision millions of new jobs as the nation pursues renewable energy sources, like wind and solar power, and hightlight the voices that warn that much of the clean-technology talent lies overseas, in nations that began pursuing alternative energy sources decades ago.
The Costs of Enforcement-Only and the Benefits of Comprehensive Reform
Tax Day is an appropriate time to take stock of a few fiscal bottom lines about immigration enforcement and immigration reform. The federal government spends billions of taxpayer dollars every year on border and interior enforcement measures intended to deter unauthorized immigration. While these efforts have failed to solve the problem of unauthorized immigration, they have had a negative impact on American families, communities, and the economy. Were the United States to adopt a different approach by implementing comprehensive immigration reform, the legalization of currently unauthorized immigrants alone would generate billions of dollars in additional tax revenue as their wages and tax contributions increase over time.
In the weeks since a devastating earthquake hit Haiti, there has been much discussion of the impact the Haitian diaspora in the United States and the remittances they send to family members will have on the nation’s recovery. According to Kristin Johnson, Ph.D., author of the IPC report, Many Happy Returns—Remittances and their Impact: How Money Sent Home by Migrant Workers Helps the American Economy, the remittances Haitians receive will be extremely important to their recovery process. Furthermore, the money that leaves the U.S. in the form of remittances will be used by Haitians to purchase U.S. exports. Over half of Haiti’s imports originate in the U.S., and the states with the most Haitian immigrants also have large export markets in Haiti. In this way, the remittances that immigrants in the U.S send abroad have a positive impact on the U.S. economy and trade. Read more...
Millions of immigrants in the U.S. send billions of dollars in remittances to friends and family members in their home countries each year. While it is easy to assume that this represents a huge loss for the U.S. economy, the relationship between remittances and the U.S. economy is much more complex than meets the eye. It’s true that remittances are an important source of income for immigrant-sending countries, but remittances are also a huge boost to U.S. exports and the U.S. economy. The following IPC Special Report reveals the economic benefits of remittances to both developing nations and the U.S. economy.
A new report, “Raising the Floor for American Workers: The Economic Benefits of Comprehensive Immigration Reform,” by Dr. Raul Hinojosa-Ojeda, finds that comprehensive immigration reform that includes a legalization program for unauthorized immigrants and enables a future flow of legal workers would result in a large economic benefit—a cumulative $1.5 trillion in added U.S. gross domestic product over 10 years. In stark contrast, a deportation-only policy would result in a loss of $2.6 trillion in GDP over 10 years.
According to a new study by UCLA’s Dr. Raúl Hinojosa-Ojeda, Raising the Floor for American Workers: The Economic Benefits of Comprehensive Immigration Reform, legalizing undocumented workers through comprehensive immigration reform would yield $1.5 trillion to the U.S. GDP over a ten year period, generate billions in additional tax revenue and consumer spending and support hundreds of thousands of jobs. The report, which runs several different economic scenarios, finds that enacting a comprehensive immigration reform plan which creates a legalization process for undocumented workers and sets a flexible visa program dependent on U.S. labor demands not only raises the floor for all American workers, but is an economic necessity.
The Fiscal Policy Institute (FPI) recently released a report highlighting the contributions of immigrant workers in the 25 largest metropolitan areas in the U.S. FPI’s report broadens a growing understanding that immigrant workers make important economic contributions to the U.S. and to their local economies. Immigrants are likely to be of prime working age, work in occupations across the economic spectrum, and contribute robustly to economic growth in each of the 25 metropolitan areas studied and in the United States as a whole.
We can expect every major piece of comprehensive reform legislation to tackle the issue of creating a legal status for the 11- 12 million undocumented immigrants residing in the United States. Ultimately, most politicians and policy makers agree that practically, the U.S. cannot deport this population, and some kind of process for legalizing status is necessary. However, there remains a temptation to create high penalties in exchange for a green card because many politicians want to ensure that people have paid the price for coming to the country illegally. An overly punitive process, however, ultimately defeats the purpose of a legalization program because it will deter people from participating and potentially drive people further underground. A successful legalization program combines measured penalties with clear and achievable goals that will get the maximum number of people into the system, identify the relatively few who do not belong here based on criminal activity, and integrate those who can contribute their talents as quickly as possible.