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.
The data analyzed in IPC's latest Special Report, Economic Progress via Legalization, indicates that unauthorized immigrants who gained legal status in the 1980s through the legalization provisions of the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) experienced clear improvement in their socioeconomic situation. Between 1990 and 2006, the educational attainment of IRCA immigrants increased substantially, their poverty rates fell dramatically, and their home ownership rates improved tremendously. Moreover, their real wages rose, many of them moved into managerial positions, and the vast majority did not depend upon public assistance. The findings presented in this report support the notion that legalization of unauthorized immigrants can play a role in promoting economic growth and lessening socioeconomic disparities. Reforming our immigration system is not an obstacle to getting our economy back on track—it is part of the solution.
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 public debate over immigration reform, which all too often devolves into emotional rhetoric, could use a healthy dose of economic realism. As Congress and the White House fulfill their recent pledges to craft immigration-reform legislation in the months ahead, they must ask themselves a fundamental question: can we afford any longer to pursue a deportation-only policy that ignores economic reality?
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.
Anti-immigrant groups have repeatedly tried to drive a wedge between African Americans and immigrants by capitalizing on the myth that immigrants take American jobs. In a new Perspectives piece for the Immigration Policy Center, Yale Professor Gerald Jaynes dispels the myth that immigrants take “black jobs” and instead suggests we find solutions on how to lift up all low-wage American workers.
Most African Americans are very conflicted about the immigration issue. African Americans, who have long espoused strong beliefs in principles of equality of opportunity, the rights of the downtrodden, and respect for humanity viewed in its broadest terms, are especially cognizant of the hypocrisy embedded within ethnocentric demands for an end to immigration. For the nation, immigration‘s economic benefits exceed its costs, but the costs are disproportionately borne by certain social groups and geographic areas. Rather than divide the public over the issue of depriving the country of the benefits to help the few who pay the highest costs, we need to be engaging in a political debate over the kinds and levels of compensatory policies that should be enacted to help low‐income citizens.
Now more than ever, Americans are seeking real solutions to our nation’s problems, and there is no better place to start than protecting our workers, raising wages, and getting our economy moving again. Part of this massive effort must include workable answers to our critically important immigration problems.
U.S. immigration policy is based on denial. Most lawmakers in the United States have largely embraced the process of economic “globalization,” yet stubbornly refuse to acknowledge that increased migration, especially from developing nations to developed nations, is an integral and inevitable part of this process.
According to new estimates from the Pew Hispanic Center, the number of undocumented immigrants in the United States did not increase between 2007 and 2008, and may actually have fallen. These findings should come as no surprise given the current state of the economy.