Argument: Deporting illegals would be economically damaging

Issue Report: Deporting illegal immigrants in the US


“The GOP’s Immigration Fumble.” The Wall Street Journal. Aug. 4, 2002: “Deporting them for the duration of the application process would break up families. It also would disrupt businesses that depend on foreign labor for jobs that Americans don’t want… The U.S. needs policies in place that recognize the economic realities that come with a long, porous border between an immensely rich country and a poor one. We need programs that will legalize the status of foreigners who are here already and contributing to our economy. We need more legal channels, such as temporary work programs, to handle future arrivals. And we need to speed up family reunifications.”[1]

Jeff Jacoby. “Second of two parts.” Boston Globe. March 18th, 2007: “suppose that V. and others got their wish, and 12 million illegal immigrants were forced out. What then?

As millions of farm hands, busboys, chambermaids, and garment workers vanished, who would take their places? Unemployed US citizens? With unemployment down to 4.5 percent, there aren’t 12 million of them to spare. Even if there were, not many native-born Americans are prepared to accept the low wages and hard conditions that characterize so much illegal-immigrant labor.

Hard-liners insist that there are no “jobs Americans won’t do” if the pay is right. Well, how much would an employer have to pay you to pick lettuce or clean hotel rooms for a living? A lot of jobs that pay, say, $8 an hour and are acceptable to a Mexican or Guatemalan alien with little education, few skills, and a fear of being deported would evaporate at the $16 an hour Americans would demand. With more expensive labor would come more reliance on machines instead of people, more outsourcing to cheaper labor markets, more closing of no-longer-profitable ventures. If illegal immigrants disappeared, countless jobs would disappear with them.

Pull 12 million low-skilled workers out of the economy, and the cost of everything from yardwork to restaurant meals would soar. Higher costs would mean lower profits and disposable income, less investment, weaker growth.

“Some 1.2 million illegals are believed to work in construction,” Holman Jenkins wrote in the Wall Street Journal last June. “If the cost of home building goes up, demand goes down: Less wood is sold, fewer nails, fewer power tools, fewer pickup trucks. Contractors would make less profit; ergo, Harley-Davidson would sell fewer Road Kings with all the chrome and finery.”