The Perryman Report & Texas Letter (March 2008) contains an important essay, "An Analysis of the Economic Impact of Undocumented Workers on Business Activity in the US with Estimated Effects by State and by Industry."
Noting the concerns of a shrinking workforce brought about by the aging of the Baby Boomers, Perryman is keen to impress upon his readers, no matter what their ideological or political positions, the central role of immigrants in helping sustain and grow the American economy. Perryman regards "enforcement-only" strategies and responses to undocumented immigrants as inadequate and naive in light of economic reality. As he says early in his report, "Overly restrictive policy has the potential to devastate certain industries. . . . While a national reform initiative is imperative, it must be cognizant of the potential economic fallout in order to avoid unnecessary disruptions, dislocations, and unintended consequences" (page 1).
Here are some facts from Perryman's research and wisdom:
- 1 in 8 people living in the U. S. is an immigrant
- Total number of immigrants is up by 10 million since 2000 to over 37,000,000 nationwide
- 33% of our immigrant population accesses some major welfare program compared to 19% of native-born families, but most of these immigrant consumers are documented, rather than undocumented
- A higher percentage of immigrants are employed than natives, but have lower educational levels, work at lower skill jobs and earn less for their work
- Estimates of the undocumented immigrant population in the U. S. ranges from 11.1 to 12 million
- California, Texas, Florida, and New York have the highest number of undocumented residents
- Undocumented immigrants arrive in increasing numbers with 180,000 annually in the 1980s, as compared to 850,000 per year between 2000-2005
- 78% of undocumented immigrants come from Latin America, with 56% of the total arriving from Mexico
- Approximately 4% of U. S. school-age children are undocumented
- The cost to educate undocumented immigrant children and U. S. born children of undocumented immigrants is estimated to be $30 billion
- 8.1 million undocumented immigrants work in the U. S. economy
- Between 50 and 75% of undocumented immigrants pay federal, state and local taxes.
- Social Security and Medicare contributions made by undocumented workers support the benefits of older American citizens, as the immigrants will not be able to collect such benefits
- Undocumented workers pay "far more" in taxes than they receive in benefits from various governments; while some state and local entities experience a net loss in cost of benefits versus taxes paid. "Viewed on the whole. . .the group more than compensates for the services it receives" (page 3).
- Removing all undocumented workers would result in $1.757 trillion in annual lost spending, $651.511 billion in annual lost labor output, and 8.1 million job losses.
- After the U. S. economy "adjusted" to such a loss of labor and capital, Perryman estimates that the sustained losses would include $551.569 billion in annual spending, $244.971 billion in annual labor output and more than 2.8 million lost jobs.
The economic and labor data line up well with my personal experience in inner city Dallas. We must craft policies that provide guest worker status to immigrants who simply want to work, make a contribution to the U. S. economy and better their lives and those of their loved ones.
Doesn't that sound thoroughly American?
[More from Ray Perryman later.]