Report: Legalizing Undocumented Immigrants Would Add $1.5 Trillion To Economy

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden meet with DREAMers who have received Deferred Action and U.S. citizen family members of undocumented immigrants, in the Oval Office.The White House/Public Domain
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The idea of undocumented immigrants as 'takers' pervades conservative thought, but data shows the claim to be false.

One of the most common reasons conservatives offer as to why we must deal more harshly with undocumented immigrants is that they are moochers, taking from the bounty of U.S. taxpayers while contributing little to nothing economically.

It doesn't help that many politicians promote this false claim in an effort to gain votes or support for their immigration reform ideas. They prey on people's emotions and fears without an iota of data to back up such claims.

According to the Center for American Progress,

Mainstream economists have thoroughly debunked this general stereotype of immigrants as takers, finding that immigrants are a net positive for the economy and pay more into the system than they take out. In fact, immigrants’ contributions have also played a key role in prolonging the solvency of the Social Security Trust Fund.
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Immigrants—even the undocumented—pay a significant amount of money in taxes each year. A 2011 study by the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy found that undocumented immigrants paid $11.2 billion in state and local taxes in 2010 alone, adding a significant amount of money to help state and local finances.

It is important to note that immigrants—even legal immigrants—are barred from most social services, meaning that they pay to support benefits they cannot receive.

UCLA Professor Raúl Hinojosa-Ojeda has shown that providing a path to legalization for undocumented immigrants in the U.S. and accomplishing wise and well-thought immigration reform would lead to an increase of about $1.5 trillion in GDP over the course of a decade.

These big gains occur because legalized workers earn higher wages than undocumented workers, and they use those wages to buy things such as houses, cars, phones, and clothing. As more money flows through the U.S. economy, businesses grow to meet the demand for more goods and services, and more jobs and economic value are created.

Hinojosa-Ojeda found that the tax benefits alone from legalization would be between $4.5 billion and $5.4 billion in the first three years.

Similar benefits hold if the U.S. passes the DREAM Act and achieves higher rates of naturalization. Numerous false narratives surround the idea that undocumented immigrants are simply a thorn in America's side.

Some truth to fight the falsehoods:

• Even undocumented immigrants pay taxes

• Immigrants help keep Social Security solvent

• Immigrants receive less in Social Security than the native born

• No difference in welfare usage among the native and foreign born
The facts are clear: Immigrants are not a drain on the U.S. economy. Immigrants are no more dependent on welfare programs than the native born. Legalization would not cost U.S. taxpayers trillions of dollars. The only thing the United States can’t afford is to have the efforts of Congress and the president derailed by anti-immigrant groups that are dedicated to hiding the truth: Immigrants are makers, not takers.

Click here to read a full discussion of the points mentioned above.

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