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A year ago this April, Arizona passed its now-infamous SB 1070 bill, which has polarized the immigration debate around the nation and spawned both counter and copycat bills. The law itself yet remains unenforced, due to legal challenges to its constitutionality. Ahead of the one-year anniversary, the Immigration Policy Center and Center for American Progress last week released a very interesting new report, entitled “A Rising Tide or a Shrinking Pie: The Economic Impact of Legalization Versus Deportation.” The report analyzes two scenarios: what would happen if SB 1070 were carried out to its full intended effect and every single undocumented immigrant was purged from Arizona, and would happen if the state instead decided to pursue legalization.
The report points out that the US immigration debate has become so heated that public discussion tends to be lacking in substance, with facts left altogether out of the equation. It seeks to explore what is best for Arizona economically in this post-recession, and the numbers are significant.
If every undocumented immigrant were expelled from Arizona, it would:
Decrease total employment by 17.2%
Eliminate 581,000 jobs for immigrants and native-born workers alike
Shrink the state economy by $48.8 billion
Reduce state tax revenues by 10.1%
However, if all of the undocumented in Arizona were instead legalized, it would:
Increase total employment by 7.7%
Add 261,000 jobs for immigrants and native-born workers
Increase labor income by $5.6 billion
Increase tax revenue by $1.86 billion
Why? The report’s introduction explains:
Undocumented immigrants don’t simply “fill” jobs; they create jobs. Through the work they perform, the money they spend, and the taxes they pay, undocumented immigrants sustain the jobs of many other workers in the U.S. economy, immigrants and native-born alike. Were undocumented immigrants to suddenly vanish, the jobs of many Americans would vanish as well.
In contrast, were undocumented immigrants to acquire legal status, their wages and productivity would increase, they would spend more in our economy and pay more in taxes, and new jobs would be created. Simply put, Arizona’s current approach to immigration policy is economically self-destructive.