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Comprehensive Immigration Reform Helps Workers and the Economy

By the Numbers

SOURCE: AP/Sandy Huffaker

A farm worker harvests eucalyptus branches from a hillside at Mellano & Co. farms in Oceanside, CA. The United States could see a $1.5 trillion 10-year cumulative boost in GDP under comprehensive immigration reform that includes a path to legalization for undocumented immigrants, which would expand nearly every sector of the U.S. economy.

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The U.S. government’s decades-old “enforcement-only” approach to illegal immigration along the U.S.-Mexico border and at workplaces across the country is not cost effective, has failed to end unauthorized immigration, and has placed downward pressure on wages in a broad swath of industries. Yet comprehensive immigration reform that legalizes currently unauthorized immigrants and creates flexible legal limits on future immigration with full labor rights would help American workers and the U.S. economy.

The numbers below, pulled from a new Immigration Policy Center and Center for American Progress report by economist Raúl Hinojosa-Ojeda show the high costs of “enforcement only” and show that a comprehensive approach to immigration reform can produce a $1.5 trillion cumulative boost in our gross domestic product over 10 years.

Comprehensive reform could have many economic benefits

$1.5 trillion: Ten-year cumulative boost in GDP under comprehensive immigration reform that includes a path to legalization for undocumented immigrants, which would expand nearly every sector of the U.S. economy.

$4.5 billion to $5.4 billion: Additional net tax revenue generated from the higher earnings of newly legalized workers in the first three years under comprehensive immigration reform.

750,000 to 900,000: Number of jobs supported by increased consumer spending of newly legalized immigrants in the first three years under comprehensive immigration reform.
 

An enforcement-only approach is expensive

$2.7 billion: The U.S. Border Patrol’s annual budget for fiscal year 2009.

714 percent: How much the U.S. Border Patrol’s annual budget has increased since 1992.

$3,102: The U.S. Border Patrol’s cost per apprehension in FY 2008.

$5.3 billion: Increase in the budget of Border Patrol’s parent agency, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, since 2003, from $6.0 billion in FY 2003 to $11.3 billion in FY 2009.

$2.6 billion: Increase in the Immigration and Custom Enforcement’s budget since 2003, from $3.3 billion in FY 2003 to $5.9 billion in FY 2009.

$2.6 trillion: Amount mass deportation would cost the U.S. economy in lost, cumulative GDP over 10 years.
 

This approach isn’t working

8.4 million: Increase in the unauthorized immigrant population in the United States from 1990 to 2008.

5,607: Number of migrants who died trying to cross the border between 1994 and 2008.

9 out of 10: Number of unauthorized migrants who now hire smugglers to get them across the border.

92 percent98 percent: Number of unauthorized immigrants who keep trying to cross the border until they make it.
 

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