Undocumented Workers – Resource or Drain?

Several new studies have been conducted in the past few months on the economic impact of undocumented workers, which is hotly debated across the aisles.

I have never been one for macro-studies that pretend to take a statistic common to a particular community and multiply it to make a generalized claim. See the immigration "fuzzy math" telecasted on CBS yesterday (done by the ultra-conservative Heritage Foundation), where the "scholars" calculate the fiscal cost of "illegal immigrants" by estimating that the average lifetime cost of an unskilled worker–two-thirds of whom are estimated to be illegal immigrants–is $1.1 million to the American taxpayer. In this case, the end cost is reached after making assumptions ranging from "illegal immigrants" as a homogenous group of unskilled workers to how much these unskilled workers pay in taxes compared to their use of social services homogenously across America. That is certainly fuzzy logic at its best. 

Lets pay more attention to community and local economy focused studies that are academic, non-partisan and actually locate and address undocumented immigrants instead of trying to erroneously determine their percentage within another group. 

One is a study by professors at University of Notre Dame on the community of South Bend in Indiana. They hold that "deporting a single undocumented worker from South Bend would on average cost the local economy a net loss of about $3,000 a month" while the contribution of undocumented immigrants to South Bend is estimated at $10 million per month. You can read more of their findings here.

Moving from the small community based study to one on North Carolina by professors at the University of North Carolina, which claims while Hispanic immigrants have cost the state $61 million in benefits in the past decade, they are also responsible for more than $9 billion in economic growth. 

Another is focused on the state of Virginia:


"According to Michael Cassidy of the Commonwealth Institute, $260 million to $311 million in taxes are paid per year by undocumented immigrants in Virginia," said Freilich. "When you add in payroll taxes — what their employers pay legally for them — the total tax contribution of undocumented immigrants in Virginia rises to between $379 million and $453 million a year."


While no study is perfect, this is a good start. Most economists also agree that "illegal immigrants" are a net gain for the American economy. Speaking in political economy terms, a raw materials economy does the least for a country, while a manufacturing and tertiary/consumer-driven society is higher on the developed scale. More undocumented laborers doing unskilled work frees up American citizens for pursuing skilled work, trade, marketing and investing in a post-industrial society.

Lets try to focus on finding more community-based, non-partisan and scholarly studies in the future in order to battle the huge trumped up numbers held up as ten-commandment facts by the anti-migrant crowd. 

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