The economic impact of immigration

By | 07.07.10 | 9:09 am

As Florida Republican leaders and candidates speak out publicly about tackling illegal immigration with an Arizona-type law in Florida, Jeb Bush recently co-authored a Washington Post op-ed that supports immigration and integration, and highlights the economic importance of immigrants.

In the piece, Bush and coauthor Robert Putnam write:

A legal immigration system is the not-so-secret edge in a competitive, interconnected world economy. Immigrants enhance our ability to grow and prosper in the dynamic global marketplace. We will need every possible advantage to expand our economy amid its fiscal challenges. Moreover, the aging of our population places a premium on young, productive workers, many of whom must come from immigration.

A 2007 study released by Florida International University found that the state’s “immigrant workers paid an estimated annual average of $10.49 billion in federal taxes and $4.5 billion in state and local taxes from 2002 to 2004.” The study concluded that “comparing taxes paid to assistance received shows that immigrants in Florida contribute nearly $1,500 per year more than they receive” in Social Security, Supplemental Security Income, disability income, veterans’ benefits, unemployment compensation, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, food stamps, housing subsidies, energy assistance, Medicare and Medicaid.

Economist Giovanni Peri author of The Impact of Immigration in Recession and Economic Expansion writes, “There is broad consensus among economists that immigration has a small but positive impact on the average income of Americans over the long term. But far less analysis has been done on the impact of immigrants on the labor market in the shorter term, particularly when viewed through the lens of the recession and its lingering labor market effects.”

A study published in June 2010 by the Migration Policy Institute says, “In the current economic climate the long run seems rather distant and more pressing concerns about the short run have taken center stage.”

The report suggests that “immigration unambiguously improves employment, productivity and income, but this involves adjustments. These adjustments are more difficult during downturns, suggesting the United States would benefit most from immigration that adjusts to economic conditions.”

Attorney Marshall Fitz Director of Immigration Policy of the Center for American Progress said last Wednesday on Miami WLRN radio show “Topical Currents,” “I understand the frustration of states like Arizona that are on the frontlines of these issues but laws like [S.B. 1070] tend to be costly, counterproductive and don’t solve the problems citizens want to see solved. Only the federal government can do that.”

Fitz also said, “We need to crack down on employers who are hiring workers illegally.”

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