Samples Immigration Legalization of Unauthorized Immigrants: Economic Impacts

Legalization of Unauthorized Immigrants: Economic Impacts

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As a result of substantial rise in immigration to the United States in recent decades, the attitudes of Americans to immigrants and immigration issues remain high on the social research agenda. At the core of the debate regarding the legalization of unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. lies the debate regarding the economic impacts of immigrants. On the one hand, immigration is viewed as having a negative impact on the U.S. economy, and this economic burden is asserted to be the ground for not authorizing illegal immigrants. On the other hand, immigration is viewed as the engine to America’s dynamism and economic prosperity. This paper is going to discuss both viewpoints with regard to the potential economic impacts on the country and work out its own position on the issue.

On the one hand, immigration has a significant adverse economic impact on the U.S. economy. First and foremost, the opponents of authorizing illegal immigrants point out the negative impact of immigration on U.S. workforce. George Borjas, the Professor of Economics and Social Policy at Harvard University, has researched the economic impacts of immigration on U.S. workers. Borjas (2006) found that even immigration negatively affects the wages of U.S. workers, especially with regard to low-skilled workers. According to Borjas (2006), “A 10 percent immigrant-induced increase in the number of workers in a particular skill group reduces the wage of that group by 3 to 4 percent” (p. 222). Another piece of evidence comes from The Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), U.S. non-partisan research organization, whose findings have been published by two Louisiana University Professors Steven G. Koven and Frank Gotzke. CIS has calculated that when all taxes have been paid (including direct and indirect taxes) and when all costs have been considered, illegal immigrant households created a significant net fiscal deficit at the federal level (for example, in 2002 it was estimated as being over $10 million) (Koven & Gotzke, 2010). As Noel Merino, a writer and researcher, states, authorizing 12 million or more illegal immigrants in the U.S. will mean letting them keep the jobs that they “have stolen from American workers” (Merino, 2016). She further says that in the time of high unemployment rates, when around 20 million Americans have been unable to find jobs, it is an unjust move, especially as the wages will predictably go down and more immigrants will come (Merino, 2016). In addition, Merino (2016) argues that authorizing illegal immigrants will mean the exacerbation of U.S. fiscal problems. Merino quotes the findings by Robert Rector, the Heritage Foundation senior research fellow, who says, “granting amnesty or legal status to illegals will generate costs in Medicare and Social Security alone of $2.5 trillion above any taxes paid in” (Merino, 2016). To make matters worse, Center for Immigration Studies reports that as many as 57 percent of households with kids headed by either a legal or an illegal immigrant benefit from at least 1 in 8 major federal welfare programs, including Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Women, Infants and Children food program (WIC), Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), school lunch programs, Medicaid, food stamps, and subsidies for public housing and rent (Merino, 2016). Besides, illegal immigrants have been found to have a considerable impact on public education costs at a time when more and more school districts in the country are facing substantial budgetary constraints (Merino, 2016).

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On the other hand, immigration has been found to produces a number of positive economic impacts on the United States, which is viewed as the basis for authorizing illegal immigrants. In particular, economist Mark Cully in his article “More than Additions to Population: The Economic and Fiscal Impact of Immigration” argues that through its impact on the size and composition of population, immigration changes the economic situation in the country. For example, Cully has estimated that the population of immigrants is the group on which any increase in tax burden will fall disproportionately. In the situation when the population is rapidly ageing, it means that immigrants will also become the basis for the thriving economy and will keep the society economically functioning as it has been. Besides, economically, authorized immigration will bring about the growth of GDP and GDP per capita, as Cully has found out. In addition, Patrick Oakford, a research assistant from the Center for American progress, confirms Cully’s observations and adds that naturalized citizens are economically more beneficial because they earn up to 11 percent higher wages than legal permanent residents (Filtz, 2016). Michael Filtz, the director of immigration policy, indicates that immigrants pay into the state system long before they retire and receive less in Social Security. In fact, Filtz says, immigrants will not receive more social services than Americans (Filtz, 2016).

On a balanced view, immigration has more economically positive impacts for America in general because it serves as the ground for the prosperity of the country. Yet, in the short-term, the economic effects of immigration on the population are negative because of falling wages and increasing competition at the labor market. What seems a good solution here? With regard to authorizing millions of unauthorized immigrants, the U.S. had better granted amnesty to all these people because without them, the country will not have a chance to maintain a thriving economy, keep its leading position in the developed world, and support its ageing population.

  • Borhas, G. (2006). Native internal migration and the labor market impact of immigration. The Journal of Human Resources, XLI (2), 221-258.
  • Cully, M. (2012). More than additions to population: The economic and fiscal impact of immigration. The Australian Economic Review, 45 (3), 344-349.
  • Fitz, M. (2016). Legalization of unauthorized immigrants would benefit the US economy. In Immigration Reform. Greenhaven Press, 2016. Retrieved from Opposing Viewpoints in Context,
  • Koven, S. & Gotzke, F. (2010). American immigration policy: Confronting the nation’s
    challenges. Springer Science & Business Media.
  • Merino, N. (2016). Mass legalization for unauthorized immigrants is a bad idea. Immigration Reform, 2016. Retrieved from Opposing Viewpoints in Context,