Prosperity Watch (Issue 66, No. 3)
Oct. 17, 2016
Immigrants are an important element—as workers, consumers, and business entrepreneurs—in building a thriving state economy. Current rhetoric on mass deportation as a policy to address our broken immigration system overlooks immigrants’ contributions to state and local economies, and, additionally, the impact that an absence of workers would have on major industries.
A new report measuring the economic consequences of a mass deportation policy reveals a $236 billion reduction in total GDP and a cost of nearly $900 billion in lost revenue over 10 years for the federal government. Nationally, the industries that would be hit the hardest by the absence of an undocumented immigrant workforce would be agriculture, construction and leisure and hospitality. Estimates indicate that these industries would experience a workforce reduction of 10 to 18 percent or more.
For North Carolina, such a policy would result in a more than $10.6 billion loss for local industries. Manufacturing would experience the largest cut with a loss of approximately $2.4 billion in annual GDP. Construction ($2 billion) and Leisure and Hospitality ($1.3 billion) would experience the second and third highest losses in annual GDP if mass deportation were to occur. Our state simply cannot afford such a hit to industries still recovering from the effects of the recession.
These estimates do not account for additional setbacks in the form of reduced state and local tax revenue. Removing undocumented immigrant taxpayers would prevent our state from investing in education and work opportunities.
Instead, policymakers should seize the opportunity of growing our economy by lowering the barriers to immigrants’ full economic participation. This can be done through different policy choices, such as action in Congress that would enable a legalization program and eventual pathway to citizenship for the 338,000 undocumented immigrants currently living in NC. States can also improve economic opportunities for immigrants by promoting proven integration policies for immigrant families including: in-state tuition, access to professional licensing/credentialing, English language training, and transportation and access to jobs.