Immigrants take jobs away from Americans. Immigrants are a drain on the U. S. economy. These are the oft-repeated claims made by immigration-restrictionist groups that have helped Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump build a solid voter base and support for his mass deportation policy plan.
But two new reports reveal that these narratives — long used to disparage the country’s 11.3 million undocumented population — have little basis in reality, especially in the long run.
In a 508-page report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NAS), 14 prominent economists and scholars concluded that immigrants generally have an overall positive benefit to Americans.
Some of the key findings of the report indicate that both legal and undocumented workers help grow the U.S. economy by 11 percent more every year, roughly a GDP growth of $2 trillion; that immigrants and their children account for much of the current and future labor force; and that the impact of immigrant wages on native-born U.S. citizens is small, but that they do affect wages of prior immigrants with similar job qualifications.
The report acknowledges that first-generation immigrants cost more in resources to state and local governments than the native-born generations. “However, immigrants’ children — the second generation — are among the strongest economic and fiscal contributors in the population,” the scholars write in the NAS report, adding approximately $30.5 billion a year. Third generation immigrants contribute about $223.8 billion a year.
Another recent report also undercuts Trump, who frequently promises to deport the country’s entire undocumented population if elected president, by confirming that mass deportation would come with a hefty price tag.
The report from the Center for American Progress think tank released on Wednesday estimates that removing the estimated 7 million undocumented immigrants who are currently working in the United States would be disastrous to the U.S. economy. (Disclosure: ThinkProgress is an editorially independent site housed at the Center for American Progress.)
CAP researchers estimate that mass deportation would “immediately reduce the nation’s GDP by 1.4 percent, and ultimately by 2.6 percent, and reduce cumulative GDP over 10 years by $4.7 trillion.” They also predict a double-digit drop in the number of people employed in the agriculture, construction, and leisure and hospitality industries, with a staggering $434.4 billion loss in GDP among the top represented industries. States that currently employ the most undocumented workers — like California, Texas, New York, and New Jersey — would experience large drops in state GDP if they’re removed.
Overall, mass deportation would cost the federal government about $860 billion in lost revenue over a ten-year period.
The CAP report also refutes the argument that undocumented immigrants steal jobs from Americans, noting that “current unemployment rates [are] low in most industries, [so] the incentives for remaining residents to work more in order to fill in any gaps left by deported workers would most likely be small and temporary.”
Even anecdotal evidence from agribusiness owners finds this argument doesn’t hold water. In a high-profile experiment with talk show host and comedian Stephen Colbert in 2010, for example, United Farm Workers President Arturo Rodriguez invited Americans to “take our jobs” as farmworkers. Only a few American workers stuck it out.
Trump often gloats about being a great businessman who would run the country in a way that makes the best financial sense. But as these two reports show, particularly when it comes to immigration policy, his business acumen leaves something to be desired.