What are the benefits and costs of having illegal immigrants?

Despite the majority of the talk on this blog being about the benefits of legalizing immigrants or the benefits of the Arizona law, I would like to bring up the benefits of illegal immigrants themselves.

According to experts, there are many benefits of having illegal immigrants in the US. Three industries in particular benefit the most from illegal aliens: construction, agriculture, and hospitality and tourism. Many farm lands require a large work force to hand pick and tend to the produce that we enjoy. Less costs for the farmers when hiring help means the price of food for consumers goes down. That means illegal immigrants help keep the costs of production low and the prices for consumers low!

Illegal immigrants also have other great qualities. The numbers of illegal immigrants often rise with the growth of the American economy, and illegal immigrants help stimulate the economy by providing low cost labor for low prices. Immigrants are also often mobile and take up jobs all over the country wherever necessary. Finally, illegal aliens are often highly motivated (as proven by taking a large risk to enter the country) and often good workers in their industry.

So what are the costs of having illegal immigrants? The only people that illegal immigrants compete with for work are US workers without a complete high school education, which is less than 10 percent of the bottom of the labor force. The other group of people who suffer from illegal immigrants are taxpayers, who often pay for healthcare and education of illegal aliens. However, for the wealthy and the powerful, having illegal immigrants who take care of their children or maintain their mansions balances out the costs of their taxes. But for middle class citizens, it is not the same since they pay a higher percentage of taxes.

Speaking of taxes, you may think that illegal immigrants don’t pay taxes, but as proven by an interview with an illegal alien by kpbs.org, some illegal immigrants still pay taxes. The federal government assigns workers a number called an individual taxpayer identification number so that employers can deduct taxes from wages. In the interview, the person showed a document from the IRS with this number and reported that he had been paying taxes with this number for many years. And although he is paying taxes, he will never get social security or income tax credit or even become a legal citizen (at least not by paying taxes), because he is not a US citizen.

So are illegal immigrants as bad as they seem to be? Sure they compete with people for jobs, but those people are the ones who can’t even complete their high school education, a minority of the labor force. Illegal immigrants are a strong and dedicated work force in many industries where a large amount of work is necessary at low costs. Thus, my question is, what are the benefits of having legal immigrants in our country? Illegal immigrants produce low cost labor, but what about the legal immigrants? Surely they are not subjected to the same treatment. Another question is, what would these industries (construction, agriculture, hospitality) do without illegal immigrants? Would the cost of living increase to an unreasonable level because of the increased costs of labor?

Sources:
http://www.kpbs.org/news/2010/aug/20/true-costs-benefits-illegal-immigration/
http://blog.american.com/?p=20515
http://www.businessweek.com/investor/content/apr2006/pi20060407_072803.htm

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About Christine C

I'm in Period 7 Economics with Ms. Muntz at SPHS.
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One Response to What are the benefits and costs of having illegal immigrants?

  1. mlmuntz says:

    Nice analysis of opportunity costs and benefits! 10.

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