A USC Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration study released Tuesday argues that legalizing California's Latino undocumented workers could be a $16 billion boon to the state and suggests that this windfall could help Sacramento overcome its $20 billion deficit.
The report, for example, finds that the difference between legal and illegal wages for the state's 1.8 million undocumented amounts to $2.2 billion alone. The wage improvements, the center argues, would result in $1.4 billion in extra income taxes. Other benefits would include 44,000 children lifted out of poverty and projections in future educational attainment that would result in $8.6 billion in gains for the workers. With a what it bills as a conservative "multiplyer effect" added to the calculation, the center's total in gains for such workers is $16 billion.
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"While some say we need to focus on recovering from the recession and not deal with immigration reform, legalizing our unauthorized immigrants could actually be an unexpected source of economic stimulus," said Manuel Pastor, co‐director of the center and the report's co-author.
The study comes after last week's UCLA report that makes the same argument on a national level -- that legitimizing illegal immigrants would boost the U.S. economy by $1.5 trillion in the next 10 years.
Many anti-illegal-immigrant activists hold on to their own belief, however, that the undocumented are a drain on the American economy, costing jobs, burdening public hospitals and tapping into overburdened schools and infrastructure.
We're not sure if the pro-legalization studies make sense (it's over our pay grade), but we'll offer you this: If you're paying the guy who washes your car, mows your lawn, takes care of your kid and washes your dishes when you dine out a legal wage, he's going to spend more money in the American economy. For sure. The question is, when that guy becomes an American, does he still wash cars and dishes, or does he move up and leave those jobs open to other immigrants?