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The Consequences of Legalization Versus Mass Deportation

Farmworkers unload eggplants while working at Green Pepper Farms in Delray Beach, Florida.

    Debates about the economic and fiscal benefits and drawbacks of immigrants typically oversimplify the role that immigrants play in our economy. When one looks more closely, they will find that the impact that immigrants (or any group for that matter) have on the economy is multifaceted and complex.

    Immigrants are not just workers; they are also consumers and taxpayers. The effects of their labor and consumption on economic growth and fiscal health must be factored in as we consider how to address the situation of a large undocumented workforce.

    In this report we describe the direct impacts of either deporting or legalizing undocumented workers. In reality, the effects would be much larger. Mass deportation, for example, would result in an indirect negative impact on local businesses because there would be less money circulating in the local economy, which would lead to further job losses. The estimates reported here should thus be considered conservative rather than exhaustive.

    We estimate the economic contributions of immigrants, both documented and undocumented, for seven states: Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, and Virginia. These seven states have some of the largest populations of unauthorized immigrants, and have played and will continue to play a pivotal role in elections as swing states. We then report the negative fiscal impact of four different deportation scenarios—namely what would happen if 15, 30, 50, or 100 percent of undocumented immigrants were removed from the state. Finally, we explore the positive economic outcomes that would result from legalizing undocumented immigrants in each of the seven states.

    State reports:
    New Mexico

    Dr. Raúl Hinojosa-Ojeda is the founding director of the North American Integration and Development Center.