CATO Institute Finds $180 Billion Benefit to Legalizing Illegal Immigrants

Friday, August 14, 2009 at 3:31 pm

A new study from the libertarian CATO Institute concludes that legalizing the more than eight million undocumented workers in the United States would have significant economic benefits for the country, while simply enhancing border enforcement and applying restrictive immigration laws would actually hurt the U.S. economically.

The new report, written by Professor Peter B. Dixon and Research Fellow Maureen T. Rimmer at the Centre of Policy Studies at Monash University in Australia, relies on an economic model used by the U.S. Departments of Commerce, Agriculture, and Homeland Security, as well as International Trade Commission.

Weighing public spending and revenues, U.S. employment rates in various occupations, and price levels for imports and exports, among other things, the authors conclude that “increased enforcement and reduced low-skilled immigration have a significant negative impact on the income of U.S. households.” The minimal savings in public spending on immigrants now “would be more than offset by losses in economic output and job opportunities for more skilled American workers.” A policy that reduces low-skilled immigration to about a third less than projected levels, then, over ten years, “would reduce U.S. household welfare by about 0.5 percent, or $80 billion.”

In contrast, “legalization of low-skilled immigrant workers would yield significant income gains for American workers and households,” the study found. Legalization would eliminate the costs of smuggling illegal immigrants, would allow immigrants to be more productive and openly participate in the economy, and it would “create more openings for Americans in higher skilled occupations.”

The overall positive impact for U.S. households of legalizing these workers over ten years would be “1.27 percent of GDP or $180 billion.”

The findings are consistent with previous studies that show economic benefits from the legalization of illegal workers.

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Comment posted August 14, 2009 @ 8:25 pm

You guys are out of your minds. Each illegal immigrant costs a great deal in social and community services. The 2.7 million illegal immigrants in California cost the state over 9 billion dollars per year. They drive DOWN wages they drive UP RENTS. The reap millions from local social service in education, food stamps and welfare checks. When you do your research, you need to also consider the cost of medical, educational and social security benefits. The numbers will be very different!

Comment posted August 14, 2009 @ 8:29 pm

Where are you getting your numbers?

Comment posted August 14, 2009 @ 9:29 pm

How does legalizing over 8 million lawbreaking illegal aliens holding American jobs benefit the 15 million jobless American workers looking for jobs to feed and shelter their families? How does it help the 13% of all American children now living in poverty. How does it help the 160,000 American veterans that are homeless tonight? How does it undo the damage to America's tried and true rule of law to reward those who have disrespected our nation and broken our laws? What we know that it will do is encourage another 40 or 50 million lawbreaking illegal aliens to overstay visas and steal across our borders as it did in the failed 1986 amnesty! Never again!

Comment posted August 14, 2009 @ 10:10 pm

Irony, thy name is Estoban…

Comment posted August 14, 2009 @ 10:25 pm

Yes but what would this do if we still have not secured the southern border. More illegals, more crime, more fraudulent documents and more tax dollars lost. How about a ten year and additional 10% tax to earn your citizenship….. with good conduct.

Comment posted August 15, 2009 @ 2:15 am

The fundamental problem with mass immigration is environmental. There is no way around it–more immigrants equalls more freshwater use and urban sprawl. Environmental groups like the Sierra Club and the David Suzuki Foundation (Canada) have been so co-opted by pro-immigration corporatefunding that they no-longer connect the dots on this issue. The only sector benefiting from constant population growth (immigration-fuelled, or otherwise) is the construction and developers' lobbies, who need to keep the real estate bubble growing with a constant influx of warm bodies.

Comment posted August 15, 2009 @ 11:54 am

There's a LOT of things we could do that would “help” the economy… but we don't do them because they're wrong. Legalizing tens of millions of lawbreakers and tacitly excusing their cheating employers is not only wrong, it violates The Constitution.

Comment posted August 15, 2009 @ 11:59 am

English as the official language and no more Anchor Babies and you might have a deal.

Comment posted August 15, 2009 @ 12:01 pm

Driving DOWN wages and UP rents is simply economics 101 regarding an uneducated, sweat-class influx of MILLIONS of people.

Comment posted August 15, 2009 @ 12:49 pm

Moving to Mexico
Dear Mr. President, Senate and House of Representatives:

I'm planning to move my family and extended family (18-20 mouths) into Mexico for my health, and I would like to ask you to assist me.

We're planning to simply walk across the border from the U.S. into Mexico , and we'll need your help to make a few arrangements.

We plan to skip all the legal stuff like visas, passports, immigration quotas and laws. I'm sure they handle those things the same way you do here.

So, would you mind telling your buddy, President Calderon, that I'm on my way over? Please let him know that I will be expecting the following:

1. Free medical care for my entire family.

2. English-speaking government bureaucrats for all services I might need, whether I use them or not.

3. All Mexico government forms need to also be printed in English.

4. I want my kids to be taught Spanish by English-speaking (bi-lingual) teachers.

5. Schools need to include classes on American culture and history.

6. I want my kids to see the American flag on one of the flag poles at their school.

7. Please plan to feed my kids at school for both breakfast and lunch.

8. I will need a local Mexican driver's license so I can get easy access to government services.

9. I do plan to get a car and drive in Mexico, but, I don't plan to purchase car insurance, and I probably won't make any special effort to learn local traffic laws.

10. In case one of the Mexican police officers does not get the memo from their president to leave me alone, please be sure that every patrol car has at least one English-speaking officer.

11. I plan to fly the U.S. flag from my house top, put U S. flag decals on my car, and have a gigantic celebration on July 4th. I do not want any complaints or negative comments from the locals.

12. I would also like to have a nice job without paying any taxes, or have any labor or tax laws enforced on any business I may start.

13. Please have the president tell all the Mexican people to be extremely nice and never say a critical things about me or my family, or about the strain we might place on their economy.

I know this is an easy request because you already do all these things for all his people who come to the U.S. from Mexico .
I am sure that President Calderon won't mind returning the favor if you ask him nicely.

Thank you so much for your kind help,

Sincerely, US Citizen & Taxpayer

Midday open thread | RQDC
Pingback posted August 15, 2009 @ 4:18 pm

[...] CATO study shows that awarding citizenship to undocumented workers could save $180 billion. [...]

Comment posted August 15, 2009 @ 3:56 pm

CATO is an open borders lobby. They massage the figures to get the result they want. Take anything they say with a grain of salt. They are not for America or Americans, they are loyal to global capitalism, and that's all.

Comment posted August 15, 2009 @ 4:42 pm

Co opted by corporate funding? Sierra Club members voted 85-15 to maintain the club's neutral stand on immigration and focus on the root causes driving people to migrate from places like Mexcio. Immigration is not about how many people live on the planet. It is about survival, economic opportunity and social justice.

Comment posted August 15, 2009 @ 7:24 pm

Let me tell you a story about government waste – The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRIRA). For 8 years my boyfriend has been fighting the Feds for the right to stay out of detention and to remain in the only country he has ever known. Mike has lived here legally since he was 2 years old. He's a Lawful Permanent Resident.

In 1978 when Mike was 18, he was foolish enough to accept a stolen $50 8 track tape deck from his buddy; Because of IIRIRA, in 2001 Mike was retroactively classified (on an expunged misdemeanor) as an aggravated felon for purposes of removal.

IIRIRA was designed to expedite immigrant removal yet Mike's been fighting this thing for 8 years.

DOJ has four government attorneys crafting arguments for the opposition. Mike is a pro se litigant – representing himself. This is like shooting a rabbit with a tommy-gun. I can't even venture to guess the government's budget on Mike's removal proceedings.

IIRIRA gives extremely broad powers to govt administrators, severely limits judicial review, makes a mockery of the Constitution, and wastes a lot of our taxpayer dollars.


Comment posted August 15, 2009 @ 10:23 pm

But they're already here. They're already doing that, legal or illegal. If we legally recognized them, we wouldn't have to spend so much money trying to catch and deport them all, and they'd pay taxes.

Comment posted August 16, 2009 @ 12:07 am

It is time to recruit a mandated E-Verify, a part of the SAVE ACT in the extraction of foreign nationals from any business, throughout the United States. We should also recognize it as a major deterrent against other sections of fraud, against federal, state and other government entitlements. For decades welfare has been involved in fraudulent benefit conversion to individuals or groups. Progressive, modified E-Verify will remove the stigma of some–BUT NOT ALL–corruption in the programs, meant as a safety-net for citizens and permanent residents? This is why parasite businesses that use–cheap labor–have been at the fore-front of nullifying any immigration enforcement program, with the assistance of a many politicians who have been brought and sold with campaign contribution and other questionable monies.

Millions of angry voices have caused a remarkable change on the leadership in Washington. Have made them address E-Verify as a positive tool in the minimal arsenal of immigration law enforcement. For once the uppermost politicians have ignored the demands of corporate profiteering because of the deafening vocal blast from an irate population. However, we must not drop our guard for one minute towards those who legislate the laws, as a gap in our armor will bring down upon all taxpayers billions of dollars to support illegal immigrant families. Taxpayers have been the supplier for years without any relief, as corporate welfare recipients–WHO PAY NOTHING–to their upkeep. The fight is far from over as the oncoming months will bring to the capitol chamber another rush towards AMNESTY.

Another AMNESTY means even more millions breaking our laws, to take advantage of our plentiful government entitlements. It means overcrowded schools and even more cramming our already saturated hospitals–NOT TO FORGET THE MASSES IN THE CRIMINAL PENAL SYSTEM. We are already the deep pockets for illegal immigrant families in the mandatory emergency room doorstep.

We as a nation can no longer afford to underwrite the poor of other countries, who break our sovereign laws, as the bill is already in the trillions of dollars according to the Heritage foundation. What we need is an orderly recruitment of highly skilled professional engineers and scientists and not those who will become public charges. We must do all we can to reduce illegal immigration.

Complete a national two-layer border barrier as originally designed, upgrade the regional police law 287 G federal laws, introduce E-Verify enforcement inspections auditing companies–big and small. Propose a reward to the public who notifies ICE of illegal immigrants in the workplace. No weakening of ICE raids on suspicious businesses around the country. TIME WE TOOK OUR NATION BACK! Keep the politicians feet to the raging fire and call 202-224-3121. All your question answered relating to corruption and lies at NUMBERSUSA AND JUDICIALWATCH. BE AWARE THAT OVERPOPULATION WILL BE AN IRREVERSIBLE ENVIRONMENTAL NIGHTMARE?

Observe this PETITION to STOP any health care to illegal immigrants at:…

Joe Smith
Comment posted August 16, 2009 @ 1:35 am

The CATO institute is clueless.

Lex Lucid
Comment posted August 16, 2009 @ 1:59 am

You don't need to spend money deporting illegals if you make it impossible for them to get a job. Start putting huge fines on individuals and corporations who hire illegals. Make the fines double for each new infraction if they are caught again. This will actually generate revenue for the government, and ultimately the hiring will stop and the illegals will leave for free.

The reason we have illegals in the country is the government is pandering to rich fatcats who want cheap labor and employees who won't report abusive practices.

Comment posted August 17, 2009 @ 1:15 am

You're a bigot. Get the hell out of my country.

Comment posted August 17, 2009 @ 1:21 am

Ironically, this is one of the few things I actually agree with CATO on. I think limits on immigration are un-American, designed and implemented at a time when everyone (incorrectly) assumed that life is a zero-sum game. Staying in the country without a visa is not a crime; it is a civil violation. Tacitly excusing cheating seems to be fine as long as the cheaters are rich already. And I have no idea what you think this has to do with the Constitution.

Immigrants (regardless of their legal status) do not drain productivity from this country, and they never have. They always have been one of the greatest SOURCES of productivity. Our “melting pot” background is the very reason we are now the greatest financial power in the world. And you all would throw that all away for jingoistic fear-mongering.

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Pingback posted August 17, 2009 @ 12:57 pm

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Pingback posted August 17, 2009 @ 4:21 pm

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Comment posted August 17, 2009 @ 5:07 pm

one has to wonder if they included the cost of devaluing the law, the cost to our social structure, the cost to our national identity, the the sacrifice of our sovereignty, and the cost of rewarding not just the workers but their illegal immigrant spouses and extended family. Did they calculate the devaluation of American citizenship? (I mean, if they're gonna sell my birthright to benefit the corporate bottom line, shouldn't they have at least set some amount for the sweat, the ingenuity, and the blood my family has given to build that birthright into something of worth?!)

But then the Libertarians have long been open-border advocates so it's no surprise that a study by Cato would support unfettered migration.


Comment posted August 17, 2009 @ 5:08 pm

The CATO institute has officially jumped the shark.

Comment posted August 17, 2009 @ 8:07 pm

Moving large numbers of people from warm areas (Latin America, South Asia) to cold ones (Canada, the Midwestern U.S.) means, in essence, driving up CO2 emissions.

Also, the 'poor immigrant' fiction needs some attention. Much of the outflow of people from 3rd-world countries involves the wealthy, who are escaping the criminality and overcrowding 'back home'. Somehow, the Metro Toronto area of Canada ended up with a quarter million Tamils. This is more than DOUBLE the population of Columbo. How did this happen? How is it that half of Lebanon–people who've never set foot in Canada for 30 years–have Canadian passports? Why are their communities of tens of thousands in the U.S. who can only function in Spanish?

Fans of multiculturalism may not like to acknowlege this, but civil society requires ethnically-coherent nation states. Look at the mess we had up here, recently, when the Tamils went nuts over the Tigers' defeat. The Liberals and NDP were vehemently opposed to putting the LTTE on the terror list, since they courted the Tamil vote. Ditto for the Sikh vote, over Babar Khalsa (who murdered the passengers of Air India 182). Most of these communities are insular, endogamous and full of people who can't function in English. Down there, you're heading down the same road, with a population that's 'Latino First, American Second'. Immigrants MUST assimilate and intermarry, and adopt the language of their new homeland.

Additionally, cultures who did not participate in WW I-II have higher birthrates tn those that did. This is because of social changes wrought by the 'total war' economy, mostly involving the entry of women into skilled labour forces (and, hence, the defferral of childbirth). The high birthrates of certain cultures are too un-PC for many of these groups (Sierra Club, David Suzuki Foundation) to discuss. Also “economic opportunity and social justice” are often lacking in places like Latin America and South Asia BECAUSE of their cultures, which tolerate corruption and social inequality.

Comment posted August 18, 2009 @ 1:03 am

Free migration is a fundamental human right. Those who hide behind the “but they're breaking the law” argument are morally equivalent to those pro-slavery people during the first half of the 19th century in the U.S. who complained about abolitionists and escaped slaves using identical rhetoric: “but, they're breaking the law!” Sometimes, laws are just plain WRONG. And restrictions on the free migration of human beings happens to be an example.

Regarding “America for Americans!” Hah: “Go tell that to the Indians.”

Comment posted August 18, 2009 @ 6:03 am

The UN tried to sneak in a treaty that would have made fresh water a 'fundamental human right'. This would have essentially opened up bulk water exports, to arid countries. The right to shelter is ALSO a human right–how do you feel about letting the homeless population of your neighborhood (and beyond) crash at your house?

There are NO universal human rights. There is no right to gender equality in most of the developing world, for example, and Shi'a women in Afghanistan don't appear to have a right to refuse sex. Are YOU going to find some magical solution to urban sprawl, freshwater aquifer depletion, loss of farmland and natural areas, ethno-religious and linguistic tensions and immigrant gang and terror threats (Islamic and Sikh terrorists, MS-13 and the Mexican Mafia)? The priority of the U.S., Canadian, British, Australian and other governments is to THEIR citizens. This is a question of Yetzer Hara. The plights of people in developing countries are terrible and we should try to do what we can to help them…but NOT at the expense of OUR people.

Comment posted August 18, 2009 @ 4:37 pm

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Comment posted August 18, 2009 @ 8:44 pm

You have a very valid point…but one could go further.

Since the bulk warm body imports are mainly for keeping the real estate bubble inflated, make it illegal (a Federal Felony in the U.S., an Indictable Offense in Canada) to sell, sublet, lease, or rent real property–or even allow free lodging–to people who are in the country illegal. The penalty would be a jail term, plus seizure and disposal (again, for public revenue) of the property. This should even extend to religious institutions who, thinking it's still the sixteenth century, give illegals 'sanctuary'.

Also, require proof of legal residency/citizenship, for such things as automobile registration, banking and prescription filing. Put the onus on people to report illegals, making it a criminal offense not to. Redo the ridiculously forgeable Canadian and American SIN cards, to have a photo printed on them (face hiding Hutterites and niqab-wearers would have to comply, as well).

Comment posted August 19, 2009 @ 5:04 pm

It's not a human right to come to our country illegally. This is a country of laws and when you break the laws of this country, you are committing a crime that comes with a punishment;DEPORTATION. Get real, any country on this planet has laws regarding legal AND illegal immigration. These folks are not welcome to just show up and expect all the rights American citizens have fought for over 200 years to gain. Citizenship of any country is NOT a human right it has to be earned. Go to Spain, France or Germany and ask them how they treat illegal immigrants. They are human too. Hell North Korea will jail you in a labor camp for illegal entry to their country. But China, Japan, Africa and any country you want to ask will tell you that it's NOT ALLOWED! We ALL have LAWS about that!

Comment posted September 3, 2009 @ 5:16 am

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Comment posted September 9, 2009 @ 12:54 pm

We love all people as long as they contribute to our society and do not destroy it by abusing our welfare system, killing our people, etc., get real!

Comment posted September 9, 2009 @ 12:55 pm

How many illegals live in your town? How much do you pay in taxes?

Comment posted September 9, 2009 @ 12:56 pm

You are absolutely right, the system is broken.

Comment posted September 9, 2009 @ 12:58 pm

What are we going to do? I live in a small town which was wonderful until 1986 amnesty, now it has 24 gangs and is a welfare hub… the majority hispanics. I love people, but not freeloaders that never put a penny into the system that they are draining with a smile upon their face.

Comment posted September 9, 2009 @ 1:01 pm

You obviously do not live in California. In my town of 75,000 we have 24 gangs, mostly Mexicans. The majority are on welfare and therefore have time to go out and commit crimes. Unless you live in it, you do not know the truth. I have Mexican American friends that feel the same way.

Comment posted September 24, 2009 @ 4:33 pm

let me get this straight…Mike is a permanent Resident, not a naturalized citizen. He knowingly (if stupidly) emperiled his ability to apply for citizenship when he bought stolen merchandise. And now he (and you) are whining because his residency has been revoked? Well guess what, buttercup, too bad. He could have applied for citizenship any time between in the twenty-three years between '78 and '01. But he chose to remain a foreign national. A guest. A guest who has worn out his welcome.

And frankly, I'm glad that the government is actually meeting its responsibility to deport any foreign national caught breaking our laws. They've fallen down on this responsibility far too often. The only reason it's costing so much is because people like Mike refuse to take responsibility for their actions and whine like babies when they're told they don't get to keep their guest privileges.

Comment posted September 24, 2009 @ 5:08 pm

Mike already paid his debt to society for something he unwittingly did when he was 17 and even had the conviction expunged 5 years later. What you're saying then is that you favor double jeopardy and deportation and all the vast resources the U.S. govt has spent on his 8 years of removal proceedings. OK. Fair enough. The Constitution clearly provides for due process for all people in the U.S., not just citizens. But if you're ok with the government ignoring the Constitution, and no reasonable human being can shift your thinking on this, have a nice life.

I only wish the govt were this tenacious in capturing Osama Bin Laden.

Comment posted September 24, 2009 @ 5:30 pm

Double jeapardy?! I don't think so. He is *not* being retried for his crime, which is what 'double jeapardy' means. He is not even being subjected to additional punishment for it. His convinction itself should have voided his guest-rights and he should have been IMMEDIATELY deported. That fact that he wasn’t is a sobering commentary on how long, and how badly, immigration enforcement has been neglected. Any criminal charges can serve as grounds to revoke a visa and send you home. Many visa holders believe that this only means they cannot commit any *major* crimes, like drug crimes or violating US immigration laws. But even being convicted of minor crimes, including misdemeanors, can result in deportation. He was given due process in regard to the crime he committed and he’s currently being afforded due process in his immigration proceedings. Your whine is meritless.

Just because the wheels of justice might grind exceedingly slow, it does not mean they cease to grind.

Comment posted September 24, 2009 @ 5:40 pm

Good day, sir.

Comment posted September 26, 2009 @ 11:55 pm

I'd guess most of us break the law on a daily basis in one way or another. So I guess we are all “illegal” and should perhaps go back to where we came from…

Comment posted May 3, 2010 @ 12:17 am

I wonder how much work you put into this country over the 200 years to even have an opinion as such in this matter. Where are you from? Where are your ancestors from? Everyone in this country is always so happy to express the minimal percentage of their foreign heritage (apparently no one is really too proud to say I'm just American; not to mention the U.S. isn't the only country in America… but let's not get into that) but when it comes down to issues like these, suddenly all of that pride is thrown out the window. Truth is we are all immigrants, except for the Native Americans so according to you, you have no right to be here either. Maybe everyone should just go back to their country or wherever their family is from and stay there forever… If that happens I'm sure a tiny percentage of people would be left here. If we do that… maybe in a couple thousands yrs if the world is still alive, we can go back to believing that the world is flat again… and maybe another Christopher Columbus might emerge, history repeats itself anyways. Oh wait! What about those Americans that are currently living overseas, including American soldiers… should they come back too? Or those business men that are currently making deals for the economy of this country, they should be jailed and kicked out as well…yeah segregation definitely should come back and so should slavery, genocide and those gladiator games, as well as crucifying those that break the law… who needs other countries anyways… If it weren't for other countries, the United States would not have been where it is today… but you have worked oh so hard over the last 200 yrs for this country so we should just follow your advise.

Comment posted May 5, 2010 @ 9:06 pm

That's pretty stupid. You stop whatever it is you're doing that's against the law. Speeding? Slow down. Using controlled substances? Stop. Being in the country illegally? Get out.

Going back where one comes from isn't the punishment for the illegal act, it's what they have to do to stop breaking that law.

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We love all people as long as they contribute to our society and do not destroy it by abusing our welfare system

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Comment posted July 25, 2010 @ 7:24 am

I'd guess most of us break the law on a daily basis in one way or another. So I guess we are all “illegal” and should perhaps go back to where we came from…

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Comment posted December 24, 2010 @ 6:54 pm

“they” brake our immigration laws. Immigration laws are man made. If you are starving to death you have a moral duty to go any place where you won’t starve(U.S.) This is nature’s laws.

Comment posted December 25, 2010 @ 3:55 pm

And that means we don’t have “low skilled” workers?

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