1 in 28 people in the U.S. are undocumented. That's 11.1 million undocumented men, women, and children facing the risk of deportation. Should they be given a path to legalization or should they be deported? Either choice will bear major consequences. Let’s use data to explore the potential impact of both options.
Let's start by exploring some of the key characteristics of the undocumented population. After peaking in 2007, the undocumented population stopped growing, and by the end of 2016 the population count is expected to fall below 11 million. As the growth of this group has stalled, there has been a rise in the median length of time that undocumented immigrants have lived in the U.S. Many of them have been here for over ten years, which based on the population’s median age might be an indicator that many were brought here during their childhood or teenage years. For the most part, members of this group are employed, pay taxes, abide by the law, contribute to society, and have either American children or spouses. Here's a closer look at some their key characteristics:
Based on Pew Research Data
Based on MPI Data
In order to understand the potential impact of any given action, a reasonable person would study how that action has affected others in the past. In 2007, Arizona passed a series of harsh anti-immigration laws that caused approximately 40% of its undocumented population to leave the state. According to economists from opposite political views, Arizona's anti-immigrant laws had a tremendous impact on the local economy. On one side the reduced competition for low-skilled jobs benefited some native-born construction and agricultural workers who were newly hired or received raises. Also, the departure of thousands of undocumented immigrants saved the state money on education and health care. However, Moody’s Analytics concluded that these departures reduced Arizona’s GDP by $6 billion a year (between 2008 and 2015) while making total employment in the state 2.5% lower than it otherwise would have been. Here's a detailed look at the economic data:
LAWA - Arizona law which requires all employers statewide to use the federal government's E-Verify program to confirm the work eligibility of their new hires. This system disqualifies undocumented immigrants from work eligibility.
SB-1070 - Arizona law that obligates police to make an attempt, when practicable during a "lawful stop, detention or arrest", to determine a person's immigration status if there is reasonable suspicion that the person is undocumented.
A national-level mass deportation strategy would cost an average of $10,070 per person, for a total of $112 billion. While $114 billion represents a startling sum of money, it is only the cost of physically deporting undocumented immigrants. Even if they “self-deported” due to harsh laws and social pressure (like we saw in the case of Arizona), the cost to the overall economy would likely be far greater. The conservative American Action Forum (AAF) calculates that the departure of all undocumented immigrants would cause the labor force to shrink by 6.4%. As a result, 20 years from now the economy would be nearly 6% or $1.6 trillion smaller than it would be if the 11.1 million undocumented immigrants wouldn't have left. On the other hand, granting undocumented immigrants a pathway to legalization would add a cumulative $1.2 trillion to the national GDP over the next ten years. It will also increase earnings for all Americans by $625 billion, and create an average of 145,000 new jobs every year. Just like in Arizona, an anti-immigration strategy is expected to adversely affect the U.S. economy:
Economy grows by
Economy shrinks by
**Figures for legalization projections were only available for 10 years.
“I had always hoped that this land might become a safe an agreeable asylum to the virtuous and persecuted part of mankind, to whatever nation they might belong.”
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