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Immigration: Costs and Benefits

February 10, 2016
Plain English Version
Hispanic construction workers at construction site

Hispanic construction workers at construction site

What is the impact of immigrants? New studies take a look.

Many immigrants arrive on visas that they get because of their skills. Their role is mostly good. They are innovators. They make America more competitive in global markets. However, they often work for less money than the amount demanded by Americans. This comes at some cost to U.S. native-born workers.

The best place to look at how undocumented migrants matter is Arizona. Arizona is the state that came down hardest on undocumented workers. As a result, Arizona lost a large percent of its migrant workforce. Arizona’s farm industry was badly hurt.

Some experts say that is not the whole story. They say more local workers will get jobs and Arizona will save on the cost of health and education for the migrants and their families. They say the cost of law enforcement goes down.

Other researchers say that the revenue from taxes paid by immigrants more than makes up for the cost of services provided to them.

Another study said Arizona’s anti-immigrant policies hurt the state’s economy. When immigrants are gone, they are not here to buy goods such as housing, clothing and groceries.

Farmers and builders say they are short-handed. They say there are not enough native-born workers to step forward to do the work. Some farmers are trying to replace workers with machines. These are ongoing efforts.

Some enterprises went out of business. The loss of jobs means low-skilled U.S. born workers did not benefit much.

Migrant workers are still not heading to Arizona. The number of students learning English in school has gone down. Use of emergency rooms has gone down. These changes save money for the government.

Now Arizona is in economic recovery. The wages for farm and building workers are going up. Labor is still in short supply.

Are migrants good for Arizona? There is no simple answer.

Source: The Wall Street Journal February 9, 2016

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