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New Report Describes a California Without Undocumented Immigrants

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california fieldsThe Center for American Progress (CAP) and the Immigration Policy Center (IPC) have done it again, releasing a new report on what life in America would be like given a different immigration policy.

In March, they released “A Rising Tide or a Shrinking Pie,” an analysis of what the state of Arizona would look like if its notorious anti-immigration bill, SB 1070, had been implemented to its full extent and every single one of the state’s undocumented immigrants had been deported.

This time, their sights are on California, the most populous state in the nation, the eighth largest economy in the world, and the home of 2.6 million undocumented immigrants.  What would happen if Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-CA) and his “Three Amigos” cohorts had their way and mass-deported all of California’s undocumented immigrant workers?

It wouldn’t be pretty.  Among the expected effects:

  • California’s total employment would decrease by 17.4 percent
  • 3.6 million jobs would be eliminated
  • The state economy would shrink by $301.6 billion
  • The state’s tax revenues would shrink by 8.5% 

Why?  The report reminds us that immigrant workers provide “upstream” and “downstream” benefits to the economy, which would disappear if they were all forced out.  As the introduction explains, there would not be enough Americans to take up the labor-intensive, low-wage jobs they left behind:

Over time, some of the farm jobs would be filled by currently unemployed workers and a measure of equilibrium would be restored. But we know that even the promise of substantial wages fails to draw significant numbers of U.S. workers to the fields; it often means moving to remote locations and it is backbreaking work.

Even assuming more U.S. workers attempted to do these jobs than we have seen in the past, the immediate consequences of driving undocumented workers out of the industry would be significant—and many of the jobs will never be filled. It will take time to recruit and train the workers who are willing to try. In the interim, many crops will perish, farms will go in to foreclosure, and the effects of contraction will accelerate. […] 

Even in the best of economic times, no state or county government can afford to pursue policies that lead to economic contraction and lost jobs. Amid the currently tepid economic recovery, a policy that would force the state to forego more than $29 billion in tax revenues is more than self-defeating—it is leadership malpractice.