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Statement on Undocumented Immigrants

Immigration has long supported the growth and dynamism of the U.S. economy. Immigrants and refugees are entrepreneurs, job creators, taxpayers, and consumers. They add trillions of dollars to the U.S. gross domestic product, or GDP, and their economic importance will only increase in the coming decades as America’s largest generation—the baby boomers—begin their retirement, spurring labor demand and placing an unprecedented burden on the social safety net. Still, additional benefits to the U.S. economy and society more broadly could be obtained through legislative reforms designed to modernize the U.S. immigration system and provide undocumented immigrants in the country today with a path to citizenship.

From 2020 to 2030, 7 million U.S.-born individuals are expected to leave the labor force. 2 million immigrants and 6.9 million children of immigrants are projected to join the labor force during the same time period. Looking further, from 2015 to 2065, immigrants and their descendants are expected to account for 88 percent of U.S. population growth. As such, immigrants and their children will be critical both in replacing retiring workers—preventing labor market contraction—and also in meeting the demands of the future economy.

In 2010, undocumented immigrants paid $13 billion into Social Security and received only $1 billion in services—a net contribution of $12 billion. Further, from 2000 to 2011, undocumented immigrants paid $35.1 billion more into Medicare than they withdrew.

Undocumented immigrants pay an estimated $11.7 billion a year in state and local taxes. This includes more than $7 billion in sales and excise taxes, $3.6 billion in property taxes, and nearly $1.1 billion in personal income taxes. Granting all undocumented immigrants legal status would boost their tax contributions an additional $2.2 billion per year. Immigrants—even legal immigrants—pay to support many of the benefits they are statutorily barred from receiving.

DACA increased recipients’ average hourly wages 42 percent, and many moved into jobs with better pay and working conditions. A further 6 percent started their own businesses. With better jobs and higher wages, many individuals are buying cars and homes, leading to more state and local revenue in the form of property and sales taxes.

Legislative reform that includes a path to citizenship would create extensive economic benefits. Such reform would increase the GDP $1.2 trillion over 10 years and create 145,000 jobs annually. Americans’ income would increase by a cumulative $625 billion. Immigrants added an estimated $2 trillion to the U.S. GDP in 2016.

By contrast, the removal of undocumented immigrants from the workforce would lead to a 2.6 percent decline in GDP—an average annual loss of $434 billion. Such a policy would reduce the GDP $4.7 trillion over 10 years. Mass deportation would additionally cost the federal government nearly $900 billion in lost revenue over 10 years. Further, industries could lose large shares of their workforces, up to 18 percent for some.

Mass deportation of undocumented workers would create income losses for large and important industries such as financial activities, manufacturing, and wholesale and retail trade. Annual long-run GDP losses in those industries would reach $54.3 billion, $73.8 billion, and $64.9 billion, respectively.

Mass deportation of the undocumented immigrant population would also cost the federal government billions of dollars. Deporting the entire undocumented population would cost $114 billion over 20 years—an average of $10,070 per person removed—including the costs of detaining these individuals while they wait for removal, processing them through the immigration courts, and transporting them abroad.

If mass deportation of undocumented workers were to occur, states with the most undocumented workers would experience the largest declines in GDP.

Texas would lose $60 billion.

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