A new study from the American Action Forum, a center-right think tank, says removing 11.3 million undocumented immigrants from the U.S. would crater the economy — and decimate the construction and manufacturing industries that are struggling mightily to find qualified workers.
The study, “The Labor And Output Declines From Removing All Undocumented Immigrants,” notes that “removing all undocumented immigrants from the United States and preventing all future unlawful entry would … reduce real gross domestic product (GDP) by over $1 trillion.” It also examines the effects mass deportation would have on specific industries.
According to the American Action Forum’s research, the construction industry would lose as many as 1.043 million laborers — about 12 percent of the workforce– at a time when it can’t fill many open positions and contractors can’t keep up with the pent-up demand brought on by the housing recovery. The manufacturing sector would lose more than 900,000 workers, about 6.3 percent of the workforce. Overall, if native and lawful foreign-born workers were to take over every vacated jobs until the unemployment rate fell to 5.1 percent across all industries, private-sector employment would still fall by about four million workers, the study finds. If native and lawful foreign-born workers do not fill any jobs left by undocumented immigrants, then U.S. private sector employment would decline by 6.8 million workers.
Beyond that, there’s the immense logistical problem of finding and removing millions of undocumented immigrants, which the American Action Forum estimates would take at least 20 years and cost between $400 billion to $600 billion.
However, Dan Stein, the president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, an organization that wants to end illegal immigration and is opposed to amnesty and guest-worker programs, called the American Action Forum’s research a “bit of hysteria” in a recent opinion piece.
“While the American Action Forum’s figure for a hypothetical one-time scenario of mass round-ups and deportations is a large number, the cost of not enforcing our immigration laws is actually much, much greater,” Stein writes. “At the federal, state and local levels, U.S. taxpayers are burdened with about $100 billion in costs every year to provide education, health care, and a variety of other services and benefits to illegal aliens and their dependents. These are recurring costs that grow larger so long as we refuse enforce our immigration laws. … Through a sensible combination of enforcement and deterrence the number of illegal aliens in our labor force would decline steadily over time. The economic output of the 8 million illegal aliens believed to be working in this country would not be lost; it would be replaced by millions of unemployed, under-employed and discouraged American workers who are available to fill jobs that our economy truly needs. Moreover, the workers who replace illegal aliens as they exit our labor force are likely to command higher wages and have taxes deducted from their paychecks.”