Read other state reports in this series here.
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 Virginia. 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 Virginia. The state has one of the largest populations of unauthorized immigrants, and it has played and will continue to play a pivotal role in elections as a swing state. 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. (For a detailed explanation of the methodology used, please see the appendix on page 9.)