On Thursday, NumbersUSA — an immigration restrictionist group that calls for the suspension of most legal immigration — pounced on a report by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) which found, amongst other things, that legalizing undocumented immigrants would not have a “significant effect” on the economy. According to NumbersUSA director Roy Beck, PPIC’s study validates what his organization has been saying all along:
Amnesty supporters claim that illegal aliens are paid below average wages, but by offering them a path to citizenship, their wages will increase. The study by the non-partisan institute, however, says that’s not the case.
“NumbersUSA has never argued that amnesty is bad because it would hurt the economy,” Roy Beck responded. “What we argue is that an amnesty would give some 7 million illegal aliens locks on jobs that 7 million less-educated unemployed Americans would love to have in construction, service, manufacturing and transportation. “In addition, an amnesty would eventually cost taxpayers hundreds of billions of extra dollars in services and welfare to which low-wage and unemployed illegal aliens are not currently entitled. “And the millions of amnestied illegal aliens would soon be able to apply for tens of millions of their (mostly poor) relatives to come join them, adding even more burdens on the infrastructure and other beleaguered taxpayer-supported elements of our society.”
In fact, PPIC’s study debunks each of Beck’s statements by pointing out that immigration would not have a significant effect on labor market conditions or demand for social benefits:
What does this [legalization] mean for the larger labor market? Given that the labor market returns associated with legalization are small, at least in the short term, we argue that a legalization program is not likely to significantly affect the employment outcomes of native workers. In particular, the lack of upward occupational mobility among low-skill unauthorized workers suggests that legalization will not lead to much, if any, increase in labor market competition with low-skill natives. […]
In addition, we expect that there would be little short-term change in the expenditures of public assistance programs. The eligibility rules for most of these programs would probably prohibit an increase in their use, at least in the short run, by even the poorest of newly legalized immigrants.
The Immigration Policy Center (IPC) further points out that PPIC’s report only takes into account the short-term economic effects of legalizing undocumented immigrants and also does not consider the effect of enforcement and future flow components that would undoubtedly accompany any legislative legalization effort. As a result, IPC concludes that PPIC “vastly underestimates the significant economic benefits that would likely flow from legalization.” A recent report from the Immigration Policy Center and Center for American Progress that does consider those factors concludes that, in the first three years after legalization, the higher earning power of newly legalized workers would translate “into an increase in net personal income of $30 to $36 billion, which would generate $4.5 to $5.4 billion in additional net tax revenue.”
Taken together, IPC and PPIC’s findings create a much rosier picture than the gloom and doom projections forecasted by Beck. PPIC’s reports suggests that, in its beginning stages, legalization would yield a small, but positive effect on the nation’s economy during a time when newly legalized immigrants would be ineligible to receive most public benefits. IPC further concludes that, over the next ten years, those immigrants will climb up the socio-economic ladder and probably not even need public assistance — all while generating at least $1.5 trillion in cumulative U.S. gross domestic product throughout that time period.