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Would it surprise you to learn that illegal immigrants have the potential to ruin our country – if they leave?

In fact, mass deportation would abruptly collapse our agriculture, construction and hospitality industries leading to a downward spiral of our economy.

Our government’s failure to address the needs of our economy through legal immigration has put us in this precarious situation. The refusal to create legal pathways to citizenship is driven primarily by fear, emotional reaction and misinformation.

So how do we address our immigration problems? I will give you the answer, but first I’d like to share a few facts about illegal immigrants.

America has 11.5 million illegal immigrants, or 3.5% of our population. The Migration Policy Institute has estimated that 2.5 million live in California, which, at 6.3% of the state’s population, is the highest percentage of illegal immigrants in the country.

 

A large part of our state’s economy is generated through agriculture, construction and tourism – industries that rely heavily on the labor of unauthorized workers. Those who point to the economic burden brought on by illegal immigrants tend to overlook the daily costs, such as higher prices for homes, groceries and basic services, that each of us would incur without their everyday contributions.

As an example of the economic impact of cracking down on illegal immigration in California, we need look no further than the neighboring state of Arizona. The legislative drive to aggressively target illegal immigrants in Arizona in recent years – including E-Verify laws and the controversial SB 1070, which allows profiling of those who raise “reasonable suspicion” – resulted in a 40% decline in undocumented workers within five years of implementation.

Some of these programs are especially difficult and expensive to implement, placing unnecessary burdens on small business owners. Moody’s Analytics found that despite the new openings in the job market, less than 10% of jobs formerly held by illegal immigrants were filled by American workers. Likewise, Moody’s reports that the legislation has not altered the unemployment issues in Arizona; the overall rate remains higher than those of its neighbors.

Some commentators tend to paint illegal immigrants as “takers”– people who come to our country looking for taxpayer-funded social benefits. I believe the opposite is true; the vast majority of unauthorized workers come here looking for work, not handouts.

It is estimated by the Institute on Taxation & Economic Policy that illegal immigrants pay approximately $11 billion in taxes. These taxes directly fund programs like Social Security. Since many of these workers must use fabricated or illegally-purchased Social Security numbers to qualify for work, they will never be able to collect these benefits.
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