The biggest complaint against comprehensive immigration reform is that illegal immigrants are a significant drain on the nation's economy, and therefore they don't deserve a path to citizenship. But this widely-held belief is patently incorrect.
The most comprehensive study on what immigrants contribute to and receive from society was executed by a panel of the National Research Council. In this study, the U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform, a congressionally appointed body, asked the Research Council (the principal operating arm of the National Academy of Sciences) “to examine the effects of immigration on the national economy, on government revenues and spending, and on the future size and makeup of the nation’s population.”
The study, entitled The New Americans: Economic, Demographic, and Fiscal Effects of Immigration, was released on May 17th 1997. And it concludes that immigrants—regardless of their legal status—contribute more to this country than they take away.
“Immigrants may be adding as much as $10 billion to the economy each year,” said James P. Smith, senior economist at RAND Corporation and one of the panel chairs. “The vast majority of Americans are enjoying a healthier economy as the result of the increased supply of labor and lower prices that result from immigration.”
The legalization of 10 million immigrants or more would bring enormous benefits to the economy of the United States. Such a boost to the economy occurred when the Immigration Reform Act of 1986 was passed. Professor Raul Hinojosa-Ojeda, of UCLA, concluded in a study for the William C. Velasquez Institute that broad reform of immigration policy could generate between 4.5 and 5.4 billion dollars in new tax revenue, and the creation of between 750,000 and 900,000 new jobs (as reported by America’s Voice).
Such statistics were supported by numbers released from the Immigration Policy Center, which concluded the following:
1) “Legalization increases government revenues by bringing more workers into the tax system…An ‘underground’ labor force represents lost tax revenue…Between one-half and three-quarters of undocumented immigrants now work “on the books” and pay federal and state income taxes, Social Security taxes and Medicare taxes. But as the 2005 Economic Report of the President points out, they ‘are ineligible for almost all Federal public assistance programs and most major Federal-state programs.’
2) Workers with legal status earn and spend more.
3) Enforcement-only policies are expensive and ineffective
4) Legalization increases immigration’s economic benefits…A 2007 report from the White House Council of Economic Advisers concluded that immigration as a whole increases the U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by roughly $ 37 million each year…Immigrants do not compete with the majority of natives for the same jobs, immigrants usually complement the native-born workforce…Immigrant businesses create jobs: In 2002, 1.6 million Hispanic-owned firms provided jobs to 1.5 million employees, had receipts of $ 222 billion, and generated payroll of $ 36.7 billion.”
Undocumented workers do cost the United States something in terms of providing education, health care, and social services. But this is a profit-and-loss equation. While millions are being spent on them, they also add to the economy by paying taxes and social security, and creating employment opportunities.
For more information on this important issue, check out A Country for All by seven time Emmy Award winning journalist and author Jorge Ramos.