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  • Another Plug for Amnesty Misses the Costs

    Ever since President Barack Obama made a campaign promise to move forward with comprehensive immigration reform early in his presidency, there has been a series of studies aimed at making the economic case for another amnesty. The newest, a study by the Center for American Progress (CAP), claims that legalizing the 11 million illegal immigrants inside the United States would increase GDP by at least $1.5 trillion over 10 years.

    Touting amnesty as an economic stimulus is weak on several points. First, these studies almost across the board assume that legalized individuals will contribute more than the taxpayer dollars they receive. The Heritage Foundation, however, has found that illegal immigrants take in $32,138 in immediate benefits and services for every $9,686 in taxes they pay out. This scenario is likely to worsen as these individuals become eligible for government benefits only permitted to legal residents of the United States. This is largely because immigrants are disproportionately low-skilled (even the CAP report recognizes this fact), and low-skilled workers draw more heavily on government welfare and income maintenance services than higher skilled workers.

    The report, of course, rests on the idea that these individuals, once legalized will quickly learn English, obtain an education, and move about the economy in a way that will make them, and therefore all taxpayers, significantly better off. This economic story, however, involves in a lot of public outlays. First, it assumes that legalization will lead immigrants to obtain more education, thus improving their earning potential and their contributions to overall economic activity. However, publicly supported adult education is expensive and provides limited improvements in earnings. Second, low-skilled workers do help increase the productivity of higher skilled workers, but demand for these workers is limited by the growth of higher skilled employment and lower skilled workers tend to displace other lower skilled workers. In short, the public investment in low-skilled workers is high and their value is dependent on what happens to the growth in higher skilled employment.

    This isn’t to say that immigrants can never make a better life for themselves. And in fact, immigrants do contribute to the economy. But when you subtract the high cost from the likely economic contribution, there is little about this scenario that would be an economic stimulus.

    Another issue that these studies often leave out is that history demonstrates that another amnesty will encourage more people to come here illegally. It happened after the 1986 amnesty. In that instance, 3 million people were legalized on the premise that there would be robust immigration enforcement to stop more people from coming. The U.S. failed to provide this promised enforcement, and millions more came here illegally.

    A better approach would be to make illegal immigration a less attractive choice, concentrating on enforcement while looking for avenues to bring people here legally that are both market based and don’t encourage more illegal immigration. The report tries to downplay a focus on enforcement as ineffective. But when the Bush Administration started enforcing the law at the border and inside the U.S., people started going home.

    Posted in Security [slideshow_deploy]

    13 Responses to Another Plug for Amnesty Misses the Costs

    1. Tony, Phoenix AZ says:

      It continues to baffle me why The Heritage Foundation and other conservative organizations are against immigration. Why are we, conservatives, still trying to appease the southern Dixiecrats that flooded the GOP in 2006?

      We need to move BACK to our conservative, Reagan roots. It boggles the mind that The Heritage Foundation would call the American Dream illegal, be against people's personal freedom and be SO anti-business/free market. This is not what conservatives stand for and The Heritage Foundation should stop pandering to liberals.

    2. Ozzy6900 says:

      Why not make US immigration as difficult as any other Country's? Why must the United States have the most Liberal Immigration policy in the World?

      Oh, that's right — it's a LIBERAL policy!

    3. Todd says:

      Albeit border enforcement is a big key to stemming the tide of illegal immigrants that will only do so much. It will take government local, state and federal alike to pass and enforce employment laws that will make it UN-attractive for companies both large and small to employ such workers. Many people say that illegal immigrants are "doing jobs that Americans don't want to do" these same people think that Americans wouldn't do the many jobs these individuals do. That as many studies have shown just isn't true they however only displace many low skilled American job seekers forcing them to fend for themselves elsewhere which usually leads to being more reliant on government assistance.

      Once we as a nation allow illegal immigrants amnesty we will in fact open the flood gates for more people to come here. The job situation in this country is already in dire straits as it is. So imagine the problems they're having elsewhere especially in underdeveloped or corrupt nations such as Mexico and others. This isn't something we should take lightly as more and more Americans are being forced out of higher skilled jobs either due to lack of job creation or the shear fact these jobs are being sent to other countries. Either way these companies can hire more workers for less money elsewhere. That fact aside the higher skilled workers when employed contribute more than just to our GDP they also pay taxes that support many of our nations under or unemployed. The taxes they in fact pay are already not enough so how is it that the little welfare that is available will suddenly be stretched to cover more and more people if an amnesty is ordered.

      There's to much of a Johny DoGooder mentality here when the thought is that these illegals will in fact overnight be contributing members of society other than "doing jobs that Americans don't want to do". Perhaps in generations to come this will be true which is why we need an honest legal work and contribute system instead of a broad stroke amnesty law. I guess many (Liberals) feel that they should play Mother and Father to countless Millions to make themselves feel better, besides it's not their money they're playing with it's the hard working tax payers money. Perhaps others feel that there's just noway to do anything about the situation so amnesty is the only option.

      The simple answer is or isn't so clear depending on which perspective you're taking however everyone should know that amnesty isn't the right answer. We need to take care of our own first before we can start to worry about those who break our laws and then give them a reward for doing so. I think the Bottom Line is clear here!

      Just A Point of View

    4. stirling, Pennsylvan says:

      Good points, and I agree that nothing good can be done until the existing laws are enforced to a point which is makes no sense (or advantage) to come in illegally. When illegals don't respect our laws and abuse the system to their advantage and our disadvantage everyone looses. The illegals become slaves and the american taxpayer pays more in taxes for basic services that would cost less if the existing laws were enforced. Amnesty just sends the message, to those who abide legally with our imigration policy, that our country doesn't care for those who respect and love this country.

    5. Beast says:

      Stirling said it best, illegal aliens contribute MUCH less than the cost they incur. There is no rational reason to give them citizenship, they need to stay in their country and fix it.

    6. TW, KC says:

      As right as the foundation is on other points, it baffles me that it caves to restrictionists almost every time. Recent polling shows an almost 50 50 split among Republicans on an amnesty, yet that is not reflected in the hard-line positions taken by the foundation.

      A more complete, balanced evaluation would be most welcome.

    7. ImmPolicy says:

      The Heritage Foundation automatically dismisses as an “assumption” any study which takes as its starting point the well-documented, historical experience of wage and consumption increases following the implementation of the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA). But Heritage fails to explain why that finding is supposedly wrong.

      Heritage is also wrong in saying that “history demonstrates that another amnesty will encourage more people to come here illegally…[it] happened after the 1986 amnesty.” In fact, unauthorized migration did decline in the first years after IRCA was implemented. But, because IRCA failed to create flexible channels for future immigration that would respond to changes in U.S. labor demand, unauthorized migration picked up again in response to unmet demand for immigrant workers.

      In other words, Heritage is wrong about both of the premises which it mis-attributes to the IPC/CAP report. Its reviewers appear not to have actually read the report.

    8. Philip, DC says:

      "The report tries to downplay a focus on enforcement as ineffective. But when the Bush Administration started enforcing the law at the border and inside the U.S., people started going home."

      Actually, when the Bush Administration started strengthening enforcement, it cut circularity – not only did people NOT start going home, but they stopped returning home regularly, thus creating a situation where more undocumented migrants set down roots, rather than less. The report makes this clear, as it does that they are not arguing against enforcement per se, only that enforcement alone will not solve anything, we need reform that allows for regularization of status and a way to bring in these same immigrants legally. You can build the biggest fences in the world, but unless you tackle demand, nothing will change.

    9. Sergio, FL says:

      "Why not make US immigration as difficult as any other Country’s?" So now conservatives want to be like other countries?

      America is unique – and that singularity is what beckons many to her. Immigrants keep the American dream alive. Let's take Hertiage's premise as truth, that the first generation of immigrants will cost the American taxpayer more than they will contribute – now lets expand that to second and third generation of immigrants… Now that is a study worth reading. I am sure that immgirant children and grandchildren will take the iniative and courage of their parents and quickly contribute greatly to our American society.


      U.S. Citizen due to the Regean Amnesty of 1986 and practicing attorney.

    10. Pingback: If only McCain had run as hard against Obama as he is against J.D. « Seeing Red AZ

    11. Mike, MI-USA says:

      This argument needs little more than a little common sense to understand. Point to any study for or against on this issue that you like. Human nature is human nature.

      Reward ANY behavior and you get more of it. Kids are a great example, and adults are really no different, whether they are from the US or not.

      If we have laws governing immigration and individuals choose to purposely ignore those laws and enter our country illegally, that is their choice. As a country it is our DUTY to enforce the laws that we enact, otherwise, we live in a state of anarchy.

      Granting amnesty to millions of individuals who have knowingly broken our laws is to actively reward an illegal behavior – by opening up the entire gambit of government services to these individuals.

      If I was one who was willing to walk into a certain store and steal electronics, and the store owner decides not to press charges, that is his or her choice and could be chalked up to mercy. The cost will not likely affect the rest of the customers of that business in any significant way.

      However, if I and 100 of my friends all break the law and steal from this company, and the owner chooses not to press charges, not only is he or she a fool, but he or she is also choosing to punish the law abiding citizens that purchase electronics from the store legally – because the cost of electronics at that store MUST increase to cover the loses.

      Granting clemency to certain individuals who have crossed our borders illegally MAY be warranted in certain specific instances that should be handled case by case. But, to grant full, blanket, amnesty to MILLIONS of individuals, many of whom are already STEALING from USA Electronics (by virtue of the many welfare services they are ALREADY making use of, while not paying taxes), the government is basically law abiding citizens and LEGAL immigrants that they are more interested in protecting the law BREAKERS than those who abide by our laws – they now expect US to pay the way for those who have put nothing into the system – raising our costs for THEIR illegal behavior.

      And, don’t think that others in Mexico will not notice what has just happened. There WILL be more illegal immigration to follow, if only in the hopes that another amnesty will occur.

      And, that doesn’t even account for the LEGAL chain migration that will follow once all of those illegals become citizens and bring over numerous relatives who are “family hardship” cases.

      Common sense says this makes NO SENSE.

    12. johnny greene in sou says:

      all these imegrants are taxing our government resorces so bad i cant get medical attention when i need it ! im paralized and under constant medical care and i think it sucks when go see my doctor and have to wait hours because of all the imagrants the are before me in line ! ! ! not to mention the cost of treating all of them ! they need to go back to mexico so my government can take care of its own people ! ! ! hello what the fuck ? ? ? wake up guys ! ! ! its in yur face ! ! ! hello ! ! ! get the fuck out of our country ! ! ! please ! ! ! johnny in california !

    13. johnny greene in sou says:

      please get out of my country ! yur bleeding us to death ! hello !

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