The Facts on Unauthorized Immigration

I received an email today from someone looking for information on political hot-button issues, and in pulling together links for her, I ran across a fact-check page from the American Immigration Council. Although the typical specious anti-immigrant argument is that unauthorized immigrants are a drain on the U.S. economy – taking jobs away from citizens and consuming tax-funded social services, education and health care without contributing to their funding – according to the AIC nothing could be further from the truth.

Here are the facts:

  • Households headed by unauthorized immigrants paid $11.2 billion in state and local taxes in 2010, according to estimates prepared for the IPC by the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy.
  • If all unauthorized immigrants were removed from the United States, the country would lose $551.6 billion in economic activity, $245 billion in Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and approximately 2.8 million jobs, even accounting for adequate market adjustment time, according to a 2008 report by the Perryman Group.
  • A 2010 report from the IPC and Center for American Progress estimates that deporting all unauthorized immigrants from the country and somehow “sealing the border” to future unauthorized immigration would reduce U.S. GDP by 1.46% annually—or $2.6 trillion in lost GDP over 10 years. Moreover, the U.S. economy would shed large numbers of jobs.

So, if that is the case, why do so many Americans remain stubbornly anti-immigrant? One can only attribute it to ignorance, racism and the influence of groups and politicians with Fascist leanings. In fact, animosity toward immigrants (whether authorized or not) is a classic hallmark of Fascism. As noted before on this Weblog, Fascists glorify the past, before the country was “debased” by foreigners, homosexuals, minority religions and the like. They see themselves as a reaction to those who are a threat to “our way of life,” and they identify (and attack, sometimes literally) these scapegoats.

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There is, of course, a broader set of questions that a thinking person of conscience might ask with regard to immigration. In addition to the economic considerations, let us not forget the issues of justice and solidarity involved here. After all, the Holy Family were immigrants, fleeing their home suddenly just before the slaughter of the innocents. Would the Republicans deport Jesus, Mary and Joseph?

We might also ask, once again, why it is acceptable for corporations to move jobs across borders wherever and whenever they wish, and yet it is not acceptable for workers to cross borders for jobs.

Some issues are complex and difficult to parse. This one is not.

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Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

The New Colossus – Emma Lazarus

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Read More:

Strength in Diversity: The Economic and Political Power of Immigrants, Latinos, and Asians. [Immigration Policy Center, American Immigration Council]

Justice For Immigrants. [United States Conference of Catholic Bishops]

Immigration and Work. [Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace]

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