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A Better Option for The Economy: Legalization not Mass Deportation

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Day after day, anti-immigrant organizations try to convince the American people that immigration is a drain on the economy and that mass deportation of undocumented workers would be a boon-despite all evidence to the contrary.  But the insidious truth is that immigrants play a key role in our economy; comprehensive immigration reform would bolster our nation’s tax coffers and level the playing field for all workers and employers; and mass deportation is an outlandishly expensive-and equally unrealistic-proposition.    

Yesterday’s news that organized labor has joined forces to push for comprehensive reform highlights the important link between comprehensive immigration reform and worker protection, and a new report from the Immigration Policy Center summarizes the economic benefits of comprehensive reform.  As the New York Times editorialized yesterday, “Even in a bad economy – especially in a bad economy – getting undocumented immigrants on the right side of the law only makes sense.” 

“Congress must address the broken immigration system to get more workers and more employers onto the tax rolls and restore fairness to our labor market.  We need a program that requires undocumented workers to come out of the shadows, undergo a background check, pay their back taxes, and get right with the law,” said Lynn Tramonte, Deputy Director of America’s Voice.  “We also need strong regulation and enforcement against employers who continue to go around the legal system in order to avoid taxes or pay lower wages.  As yesterday’s labor announcement shows, comprehensive immigration reform is the right approach for our economy and the right approach for America,” she concluded.       

Consider the following key facts about the numbers behind comprehensive immigration reform, or take our quiz to see how much you know:


  • $5.05 Billion & $974 Million. The FY 2008 budget of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was $5.05 billion, compared to the $974 million FY ‘08 budget of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. This means we spend five times the amount of money to crack down on immigrants than to monitor Wall Street.


  • 62% – 21%: In 2008 polling, 62% of American voters believed we would be better off if people who are in the United States illegally became legal taxpayers vs. 21% who preferred that the undocumented population leave the country because they are taking away American jobs (Lake Research and Benenson Strategy Group polling, 2008).



Option One — Legalization

  • $66 Billion: The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and Joint Committee on Taxation estimated that the 2006 Senate comprehensive immigration reform bill would have raised $66 billion in new revenue over a ten-year period, primarily from income and payroll taxes.


  • $272 million & $70 million:  In New York City alone in 2005, the city government lost out on $272 million in revenue in lost payroll taxes and $70 million in lost personal income taxes from employers paying “under the table,” according to a Fiscal Policy Institute study.


  • 90%: Approximately 9/10 native-born workers with at least a high school diploma experienced wage gains because of immigration between 1990 and 2004, according to a study by Giovanni Peri, Associated Professor of Economics at UC Davis. 


  • $407 Billion: The estimated amount that, over the next 50 years, new, legal immigrants entering the U.S. would provide in present value to the national Social Security system, according to a study from National Foundation for American Policy.


Option Two – Mass Deportation

  • $1.8 Trillion: Removing undocumented workers from the U.S. would total a loss of $1.8 trillion in annual spending and $651.5 billion in annual economic output, according to a study by the economic analysis firm The Perryman Group.


  • $206 Billion: The minimum estimated amount it would cost over the next five years to enact the dream scenario of the mass-deportation caucus and deport most of the undocumented population, according to a report by the Center for American Progress.


  • 218, 60, 1: The number of votes (House, Senate, President) needed to enact comprehensive immigration reform legislation to fix the broken system, level the playing field for all workers and employers, and increase tax compliance by workers and employers.

To learn more, visit:  http://americasvoiceonline.org/page/content/reformbythenumbers/.

America’s Voice — Harnessing the power of American voices and American values to win common sense immigration reform.