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Despite Some Drawbacks, Undocumented Immigrants Help The Economy

Like any other highly charged issue, illegal immigration is a complex one with benefits and disadvantages that often get ignored in the heat of argument. As an immigration attorney in Texas, I understand how strongly many people feel about undocumented aliens. They see only the negatives and fail to recognize that many of these newly arrived individuals and families are just as committed to being productive members of society as any established U.S. citizen.

A recent article in the New York Times by Adam Davidson presented a balanced expose on the effects of undocumented aliens on the economy. The vast majority of undocumented workers is unskilled and therefore takes the low wage jobs that many U.S. citizens would not want or would expect higher wages for. The argument that these undocumented workers depress the wages among workers without at least a high school diploma is a valid one. Studies have shown that within this class of workers which includes about 25 million individuals, undocumented aliens have depressed wages from 0.4 to 7.4 percent.
On the other hand, the wages for the other classes of workers have actually increased. A report indicates that pay for workers in other classes actually increased by 10 percent. Skilled workers and white collar professionals benefit from the cheap labor. A good example of this was exemplified by an undocumented worker who performed many of the menial tasks on the construction site that would otherwise have to be completed by a skilled worker. This included cleaning and installation of simple fixtures. This cheap labor not only allowed skilled workers to devote more of their valuable time to the tasks appropriate to their level, but it also allowed them to work in an environment that was more efficient. The minor investment in one or a few undocumented workers enabled the construction project to operate at a lower overall cost.

These workers also provide stimulatory benefits to the economy through their purchases and taxes. The anti-immigrant position has long been that these undocumented aliens take more than they receive. While it is true that many immigrants receive social benefits like education and indigent health care, they more than make up for it with the economic activity they provide. While many undocumented aliens pay Social Security as well as some form of taxes, they are often not eligible to receive benefits when they retire. This produces a net payment of $14 billion into the Social Security program annually.

While undocumented aliens do provide real and substantial benefits to the U.S. economy, the challenges lie in providing opportunities to these workers equitably. In border states, where there are large populations of undocumented aliens, there are considerable burdens upon local governments. As an immigration attorney in Texas, I recognize that there are significant integration challenges for these communities as well as wider U.S. society, but given the chance, many of these newcomers could become partners and welcome neighbors.

If you or someone you know has questions about these or related issues, please contact my office at (512) 215-5225 to schedule a private consultation.

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