Adverse Impacts of Massive and Illegal Immigration in the United States

By Blondell, Jerome | The Journal of Social, Political, and Economic Studies, Fall 2008 | Go to article overview
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Adverse Impacts of Massive and Illegal Immigration in the United States

Blondell, Jerome, The Journal of Social, Political, and Economic Studies

Information is provided here to show that massive and illegal immigration has adverse effects on economic justice, fairness to immigrants that came legally, and the rule of law. After nearly three million illegal aliens were granted a one-time amnesty in the United States in 1986, a new group, at least four times as large, replaced them in just 20 years. This paper analyzes demographic data from established and reputable sources to present a concise and compelling case for prevention and protection, effective enforcement, and a time-out from current levels of mass immigration.

Key Words: Illegal immigration; Economic costs; Health costs; Poverty; Education; Social capital.

Costs of Immigration

Data has long been collected about the costs to American taxpayers from illegal immigration and the presence of low-skill immigrants. A report of the National Research Council (NRC) in 1997 estimated net costs (after subtracting taxes paid by immigrants) at $15-20 billion in 1994-95 based on immigrants in 9.2 million households (Smith and Edmonston, 1997)'. Much more recently, the Heritage Foundation estimated net costs to be $89 billion in 2004 based on 4.5 million households with low-skill (did not complete high school) households containing 15.9 million immigrants (Rector and Kim, 2007)2. An estimated 40 percent of these household residents were illegal. In December 2007, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office acknowledged that "The tax revenues that unauthorized immigrants generate for state and local governments do not offset the total cost of services provided to those immigrants".

After adjusting for inflation and current population in 2007, the two studies cited above estimate net costs ranging from $29 billion to $98 billion (U.S. Census Bureau, 2008)3. Distributed among the 105 million non-immigrant households in the United States, that figure equals a cost ranging from $276 to $933 per household each year. Similarly, the Federation of Americans for Immigration Reform ( fiscal cost studies for nine states estimate net costs ranging from $122 to $1,183 per native household (median $700), based on expenses for education, emergency medical care, and incarceration. These figures estimate the cost in taxes paid by median income households with a current income of about $48,000.

A depressing of wages is also to be counted among the costs of the immigration coming into the United States. Alan Tonelson (2006), a research fellow with the U.S. Business and Industry Council Educational Foundation, has used wage data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics for workers in the food services, hotel, construction, and agricultural production industries. Tonelson estimated wage declines between 2000 and 2005 of 1 to 2.2 percent for each of these industries. Harvard economist George J. Borjas, coauthor of the 1997 NRC report, estimated that from 1980 to 2000, immigration reduced wages of nativeborn workers by $1,700, or 4 percent (Telia, 2006). For the poorest (lowest 10 percent) workers, the reduction was 7.4 percent. The adverse effects of immigrant labor disproportionately affects other minorities, part-time workers, and earlier immigrants (Krikorian 2008)..

There is reason to question the impression that is common in the United States that migrant labor is essential for picking the country's fruits and vegetables and that these workers' low wages significantly lower the cost of food. Phil Martin Professor of Resource Economics at the University of California-Davis, found that the average household spends just $357 a year on fruits and vegetables (Martin and Krikorian, 2007). For every dollar spent, just 18 cents go to the farmer and onethird of that cost (or 6 cents) goes to the migrant laborer. Even if costs for farm workers increased 40 percent, the total increase in cost per household would be about $8 a year. A $1.80 head of lettuce would increase in price by, at most, 10 cents.

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