Deferring deportation for millions of illegal immigrants probably would increase the nation's workforce, boost local, state and national tax revenue streams, and create jobs for workers across the nation, according to economic data in states with large populations of undocumented workers. It will also help more immigrants become integrated into American society, creating safer and stronger communities, data suggests.
The economic impact of granting millions of immigrants legal status has long been a significant part of the national conversation on illegal immigration, and President Barack Obama's unveiling Thursday night of his latest immigration policy will only intensify that debate. In lieu of bipartisan measures on comprehensive immigration reform from Congress, Obama has vowed to use his executive authority to overhaul the nation’s immigration system.
Obama previously reshaped immigration policies without Congress in 2012 with his deferred action program, or DACA, which lets young immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children receive temporary visas. The program recipients are also eligible for work authorization. More than 670,000 people have applied for the legal status since its inception in June 2012, with roughly 86 percent of them receiving approval, according to data collected by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Those immigrants went on to get good jobs and contribute to local economies, according to a study by the Immigration Policy Center. It found that approximately 61 percent of young adult immigrants got a new job, 54 percent opened their first bank account, 38 percent obtained their first credit card and 61 percent got a driver’s license since receiving the deferred deportation status. A study by the Migration Policy Institute found that 66 percent of undocumented youth have reported “no longer feeling afraid because of their immigration status,” because of the policy.
Most of the visas were awarded to Mexican nationals, or roughly 428,000. The immigrants also came from other parts of Latin America: 20,227 approved requests come from El Salvador, 13,301 from Guatemala, 13, 223 from Honduras and 7,259 from Peru. The top states that are home to DACA recipients are California, Texas, Illinois and New York, in that order, according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Here is a breakdown of the economic impact of undocumented immigrants in each of those states:
More than one quarter of Californians are immigrants and make up more than one third of the state’s workforce, according to the 2011 U.S. Census Bureau. If all unauthorized immigrants were removed from the state, California would lose $301.6 billion in economic activity, decrease total employment by 17.4 percent and eliminate 3.6 million jobs. If unauthorized immigrants in California were legalized, it would add 633,000 jobs to the economy, increase labor income by $26.9 billion and increase tax revenues by $5.3 billion, according to a 2011 study by the Immigration Policy Center and the Center for American Progress.
Immigrants comprise 21 percent of Texas’ labor force, according to the 2011 U.S. Census Bureau. If all illegal immigrants were removed from Texas, the state would lose $69.3 billion in economic activity, $30.8 billion in gross state product and roughly 403,174 jobs, according to a 2008 report by the Perryman Group. If illegal immigrants in Texas were given legal status, they would pay $1.7 billion in state and local taxes, according to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy.
Immigrants account for 17.6 percent of Illinois’ workforce, according to the 2011 U.S. Census Bureau. If all unauthorized immigrants were removed from Illinois, the state would lose $25.6 billion in economic activity, $11.4 billion in gross state product and about 119,214 jobs, according to the 2008 report. If illegal immigrants in Illinois were legalized, they would pay $711.6 million in state and local taxes, according to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy.
More than 1 in 5 New Yorkers are immigrants and comprise 27.3 percent of the state’s workforce, according to the 2011 U.S. Census Bureau. If all illegal immigrants were removed from New York, the state would lose 28.7 billion in economic activity, $12.7 billion in gross state product and approximately 137,013 jobs, according to the 2008 report. If illegal immigrants in New York were given legal status, they would pay $968.4 million in state and local taxes, according the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy.