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The Economics of Immigration Reform

Don Rose 6 February 2013 5 Comments

Of the two big items on Barack Obama’s current agenda—gun safety and immigration reform—I suspect he’ll get more done on the latter than the former.

No surprise.

The gun lobby still holds sway on large numbers of both parties in both houses, while wise Republicans recognize they have a vested interest in making nice to the larger Latino community in the hopes of picking up enough political support to avoid oblivion in presidential elections to come.


Yet there’s widespread resistance among House Republicans and some senators to the idea of a pathway to citizenship (“amnesty” they call it) for 11 million undocumented workers (“illegal aliens” they call them). Truth to tell, there is more than a modicum of anti-Mexican prejudice at work here. But the politics of political survival and even—pardon the word—morality are likely to rule.

Actually well more than half the undocumented did not cross the borders illegally; rather, their legal visas or visitors’ green cards expired and they remained long past the date they should have returned.

Contrary to the conservative argument that undocumented residents are a financial burden on the U.S., there are powerful arguments that citizenship and the right to work will bring an ultimate economic benefit and strengthen Social Security.

Social Security actuaries estimated in 2007 that about two-thirds of undocumented workers paid into the system but many fewer received any benefits. If more were citizens they would receive more benefits but pay in even more, contributing to its overall solvency.

Florida’s former Republican Governor Charlie Crist, then running for the Senate as an independent, raised the point in 2010:

“If we are willing to have a thoughtful, reasonable pathway to citizenship…those [undocumented] people can become productive, participating members of the American economy, paying the payroll taxes, helping Social Security going forward, and making America stronger financially,” he said. Ironically, his Tea Party Republican opponent Marco Rubio won the seat, but is now the lead GOP senator in selling immigration reform.

The progressive economist Dean Baker agrees it would help “but probably not hugely,” he wrote me. “The net is probably positive for the program but most likely not a huge positive.

Apart from Social Security, the Congressional Budget Office now estimates that if all undocumented workers became citizens they would pay $48 billion more in overall taxes while increasing the cost of public services by $23 billion, for a net gain of $25 billion. This should ease the minds of those genuinely concerned about the cost, for example, of educating immigrants’ children.

Other studies suggest that low-wage immigrants won’t seriously compete against current citizens for jobs—they will actually increase their average wages.

One poison pill, however, is planted in the senate’s proposed bill. It puts border security ahead of the citizenship path and in effect gives border-state governors the say-so about whether the borders are secure.

That means goofs like Rick Perry of Texas and lying lunatics like Arizona’s Jan Brewer would have veto power over the entire citizenship path.

Better we should just let that pair secede.

Don Rose is a regular columnist for the Chicago Daily Observer


  • Ward Heeler said:

    Florida’s former Republican Governor Charlie Christ???

    Do you mean Crist formerly served as the Governor of Florida or do you mean that Crist was formerly a Republican?

    Both statements are true. Crist bolted the Republican Party to run as an “Independent” against Marco Rubio. Later, Crist endorsed Obama for President over Romney.

    Advice such as the comments contained in this are article are hardly helpful to the survival of the Republican Party. The Democrats view amnesty as a method of creating another captive voting bloc filled with instant Democratic voters dependent upon government social programs and checks.

  • Whistleblower said:

    U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald’s war against the truth


  • Votecounter said:

    In Don Roses story titled the “Economics of Immigration reform” Don starts his piece by giving what he sees as President Obama’s two top priorities, gun safety (gun control) and Immigration reform (Amnesty). I wish Don wouldn’t have resorted to the racist accusations, but he does right from the start. Like the GOP is being forced to “Making nice to the Latino community” to “avoid oblivion” in Presidential elections. Liberals use different words so people won’t really understand what they mean. Like saying invest instead of spending, or revenue enhancement instead of taxes or in this instance “forced to making nice” instead of racist. The line “more than a modicum of anti-Mexican prejudice at work ” is what liberal Democrats resort to in all their arguments because the facts are not with them.
    Don predicts since the American people don’t agree with him and his party on gun control, amnesty will be the issue he
    and his party will demagog. I would have just read his views disagreed in the comments and moved on until I saw that he included Morality; as if I was immoral for not being on his side of the amnesty argument.

    Is it moral that illegal workers are taking construction jobs from citizens? I will take you to most any construction site (if you can find one), and show you the illegal Russian doing the tin banging, the illegal Irish doing the plastering.The illegal Polish doing the electrical, and yes even the illegal Mexican doing the carpentry and drywall. Show me the “Morality” of ignoring the unemployed Americans in minority areas of Chicago and other cities who are affected by illegal workers? Would it be fair if I said it was a modicum of anti black prejudice on the part of people in favor of amnesty? Lawndale, Engelwood and Austin have unemployment rates of over 60% among Black Males 18-39 and those aren’t the only neighborhoods with numbers that high.

    A university of Wisconsin report on 2010 census data reported:
    “More African-American men from Milwaukee were admitted to Wisconsin correctional facilities in an average year in the 2000s than were employed at the end of the decade in factories in the city of Milwaukee.”

    More going to jail than working in manufacturing? Wheres the morality in that?
    Where is the morality in importing low level workers when we have such a huge problem finding work for our own citizens? Your not saying they don’t want to work, are you? Black male unemployment nationwide is at 17.5%. Black women fair a little better 11.5%. In the building trades the unemployment number of everyone is over 16%! Would it be moral to give amnesty to 11 million workers when so many of our own can’t raise their families or pay their mortgages? Wouldn’t it be the moral thing to do to spend all the effort and time fixing the Problems of American citizens and Americas cities? Social security is and has been a Ponzi scheme since it’s inception would it be moral putting more people on it? If you think the way to fix it is by putting more people on the rolls, lets have that debate but lets fill the rolls with, the more than 11 million unemployed American citizens and let them control their own retirement that would be the moral thing to do.

    The two Governors (the goof and Lying lunatic) who will have to say if the agreed to enforcement is working are the border state Governors who’s states are most affected by illegal immigration and elected by those states voters! The Senator you mentioned says the only way to let these people get a path to citizenship is when the borders are proven to be secure. How moral is it for you, someone who doesn’t live there, to tell them when the enforcement is working? Who are you to think you, and others who don’t live there, should even imply the people who elected them don’t know whats best for their state and their families! A Democrat from Illinois telling any other state how to better itself is a joke and immoral anyway lets put our own people to work in Illinois who are citizens and out of work.
    If its a cost / savings analysis you want how’s this? If we put 11 million American unemployed workers back to work it wouldn’t cost anything it would bring in hundreds of millions if not billions of dollars in taxes and save the country billions in government spending. That would be the Moral thing to do.

  • oldgraymary said:

    I actually started reading the article without checking the byline. By the time I got to “goof” and “lying lunatic” I didn’t have to bother. If ever a(n) (il)liberal could write or speak without using derogatory adjectives, he/she would be an armless mute.

  • Mike Buck said:

    “The goof” and the “lying lunatic”…….gee,I thought those were the descriptions applied to our present Democratic Governor and his immediate Democratic predecessor.

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