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.
Today, on Capitol Hill, Congressmen Steve King and Lamar Smith will host a forum on the impact of “illegal immigration on American jobs.” Panelists will likely attempt to draw a direct correlation between U.S. immigration policy and unemployment, just as they do with all other domestic issues including the environment, security and health care. As in the past, their solution is deportation, their tactic is division, their position is the status quo, and their plans neither help American workers or solve our immigration crisis. The Immigration Policy Center (IPC) has developed the following fact check to further debunk claims that U.S. unemployment is caused by immigration.
We can expect comprehensive reform legislation to mandate that all employers use some sort of system that verifies the work authorization of all workers. Since this will affect every single worker in the United States - immigrants and citizens alike - and because an error in the system can cost a worker his job and paycheck, it is important to make the system workable. This report lays out the must-haves for any broad employment verification system and lays out why a system like this can only work if it is within the context of a broader reform package.
Nearly everyone agrees that our immigration system is badly broken and in urgent need of reform. Under the existing system people are dying at the border, immigrants are living and working in abject conditions, families trying to reunite legally are separated for many years, employers are unable to hire the workers that they need, U.S. workers suffer from the unlevel playing field shared with exploited immigrant workers, and law‐abiding U.S. employers are in unfair competition with unscrupulous employers who increase profits by hiring cheap and vulnerable labor. Meanwhile, the United States continues to spend billions of dollars on enforcing these broken laws.
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.
The U.S. Census Bureau recently released data on the Latino population of the United States that underscores the extent to which the immigrant experience is embedded in the social (and political) fabric of the United States. The political significance of these statistics is apparent in the most recent IPC Fact Check. Latinos comprise the fastest-growing group of voters in the United States. The number of naturalized U.S. citizens is increasing rapidly and the electoral clout of New American voters who share a direct, personal connection to the immigrant experience—that is, naturalized citizens and the U.S.-born children of immigrants—is on the rise.
As health care bills make their way through Congress, lawmakers are debating whether or not to include overly burdensome citizenship verification requirements to ensure that unauthorized immigrants do not have access to health insurance. However, past attempts to implement these kinds of additional measures have prevented U.S. citizens and legal immigrants from receiving health care, while uncovering very few instances of unauthorized immigrants trying to abuse the system. In fact, research shows that unauthorized immigrants do not come to the United States for health care benefits or any other public services for which they are not eligible. These additional measures threaten to ensnare far more citizens than unauthorized immigrants and add unnecessary costs to health care reform.
Citizenship Day (September 17) is an appropriate time to take stock of the growing number of U.S. citizens who are immigrants to this country—or who are the children of immigrants. Roughly one-in-seventeen U.S. citizens are foreign-born, and tens of millions of native-born U.S. citizens have immigrant parents. This demographic reality has important political ramifications. A rising share of the U.S. electorate has a direct personal connection to the immigrant experience, and is unlikely to be favorably swayed by politicians who employ anti-immigrant rhetoric to mobilize supporters. This is particularly true among the two fastest-growing groups of voters in the nation: Latinos and Asians. The majority of Latinos and Asians are either immigrants or the children of immigrants, and they comprised one out of every ten voters in the 2008 election.
As anti-immigrant groups continue to use immigration as a scare tactic to thwart progress on the health care debate, the Immigration Policy Center has provided factual information on why including legal immigrants in health care reform benefits all Americans. By including legal immigrants in health care reform, we can lower the overall costs. Refusing to accept people who want to pay into the system just doesn't make sense. Immigrants are the not the cause of the health care crisis, but they can certainly be part of the solution.
At a time of economic recession, high unemployment, and budget deficits, policymakers and the public are concerned about the impact of immigration—especially unauthorized immigration—on state and local economies. In particular, there is debate over whether or not unauthorized immigrants are a drain on the budgets of state and local governments because of the public services they utilize. Accurately assessing the costs and contributions of immigrants, particularly unauthorized immigrants, is a challenge, but research shows that roughly one-half of unauthorized immigrants pay federal and state income taxes, Social Security taxes, and Medicare taxes. Moreover, all immigrants (legal and unauthorized) pay sales taxes (when they buy anything at a store, for instance) and property taxes (even if they rent housing). Below is a survey of a number of state studies which have found that immigrants in general—and the unauthorized specifically—contribute to the public treasuries and economies of many states and localities.