Commentator: Illegal immigration hurts the economy

A U.S. Customs and Border Protection bike patrol agent assists Mexicans being returned to Mexico after they were apprehended for entering the United States illegally in Nogales, Ariz. San Diego resident Nancy Parker says the costs of undocumented immigration outweigh the benefits.

Tess Vigeland: This week as part of our election coverage, The Real Economy, we're hearing from people across the country about the issues that matter most to them.

Today, San Diego resident Nancy Parker argues illegal immigration hurts the economy -- more than helps it.

Nancy Parker: It's time we did something about illegal immigration in the United States.

I always hear talk about the economic benefits of illegal immigration -- cheap labor and all -- but it also has economic costs nobody seems to mention.

Many who work here illegally don't keep the money they earn in this country. Instead, they send it off to relatives in their home countries. It's a drain of resources that doesn't do anything for economic growth here.
A lot of the work they do is off the books, so many aren't even paying taxes. Yet they're still using free health care, food stamps and other services meant for low-income and senior citizens.

I am not anti-immigrant. I understand why people would risk their lives to come to this country. But we need to have compassion for our own people who are being denied services that are going to illegals.

And it's not just services, it's jobs also. I'm always hearing illegal immigrants are doing work nobody else wants to do. Try telling that to someone who's been out of work for three years. I know a lot of Americans who'd be just fine working in the construction industry.

Lately, we're hearing a lot about the income gap. Well, maybe one of the reasons poor Americans aren't making as much is because illegals in this country are willing to work for even less.

And what about the direct cost of illegal immigration: all the law enforcement, detention and deportation has to add up to something. Just think of where else we could be using that money.

At the end of the day, illegal immigration is just plain wrong. Make all the excuses you want, they've broken the law. If we went to their countries without immigrating through proper channels, we'd be tossed out on our ear immediately.

Vigeland: Nancy Parker is a retiree living in San Diego. Let us know what issues are most important to you this election year -- write to us.

About the author

Nancy Parker is a retiree living in San Diego.
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As Congress debates the contours of immigration reform, many arguments have been made on economic grounds. Undocumented workers, some suggest, undercut wages and take jobs that would otherwise go to Americans. Worse, the argument goes, many use social programs, like hospitals and schools, that cost taxpayers and add to our $16 trillion national debt. Would deporting Pedro Chan and the other 11 million or so undocumented workers mean more jobs, lower taxes and a stronger economy?

Illegal immigration does have some undeniably negative economic effects. Similarly skilled native-born workers are faced with a choice of either accepting lower pay or not working in the field at all. Labor economists have concluded that undocumented workers have lowered the wages of U.S. adults without a high-school diploma — 25 million of them — by anywhere between 0.4 to 7.4 percent.

this is a very intriguing post. I specially love this part "And it's not just services, it's jobs also. I'm always hearing illegal immigrants are doing work nobody else wants to do. Try telling that to someone who's been out of work for three years. I know a lot of Americans who'd be just fine working in the construction industry." thanks for sharing


The majority of our immigrants now sneak in through the “back door” that the federal government purposely leaves open. Thanks to the negligence of the federal government, far more people move into the United States illegally than come in through the legal immigration process. This has got to change.


Nancy expressed the sentiments that the majority of Americans have. When polled, Americans have indicated that they do not want illegals in the US. Compassion, sympathy, racism and rights have nothing to do with illegals in the US. As Nancy states, illegals are illegal; they have committed a crime.

The fact can be found at immigrationcounters.com

Unfortunately for Americans, the US government does not and will not follow the laws that it made regarding illegals. Illegals are embraced by the US government because "Big Business" wants this cheap labor. Many years ago, Mr. Marriott went before Congress. He insisted that he needed illegal labor in order to open and run his new hotels. "Big Business" has won...Americans have lost.

Imagine the uproar from businesses and employers who benefit from labor of immigrants, illegal and otherwise were the laws to be strictly enforced.
Think beyond their employers. Visit a supermarket on a Saturday or Sunday night in most American cities or towns where illegals live and work. You will see immigrant families (or groups of young men) buying food, especially ethnic specialties stocked by vendors who are happy to cater to this demographic. Their cost to the economy is lessened by the cash they spend to live and eat and drive here. They are taxed through rent and with every purchase through sales taxes just as legal residents are. These paybacks come before any money is remitted to the home country. I doubt the political will needed to "seal" the borders exists since the real cost to the economy would be too great to those who benefit most from illegal labor.

Who asked for aliens, and then made them illegal?

Commentator Nancy Parker is convinced illegal immigrants hurt the economy. She says: “we need to have compassion for our own people who are being denied services [and jobs] that are going to illegals.”

The most unsympathetic estimates these “aliens” costs come from Republicans like former congressman John Doolittle, who claimed their welfare and (primarily) medical costs amounted to $10 billion annually in taxpayer expense. When Doolittle pronounced this shocking figure, he sternly reminded his audience this expense is the product of crime; they’re “illegal aliens,” after all.

Setting aside the possibility that those medical expenses were disguised subsidies to sub-standard workplaces (for example, see the Sacramento Bee’s series about Hispanic forestry workers), what if Doolittle is right? So what?

According to its recent first-ever audit, the U.S. central bank (“the Fed”) just issued an orders-of-magnitude larger amount -- $16 - $29 trillion -- to bail out Wall Street’s frauds, after they absconded with 20% of America’s net worth. Where’s Parker’s cry for justice about the really big crime? Apparently gay marriage, contraceptives and illegals’ medical expenses are bigger deals.

Or what about America’s extraordinarily expensive system of gulags? The U.S. spends $78 billion just incarcerating people because it jails people five times more often than the per-capita world average, the bulk of them for drug offenses. This expensive prison system has not reduced crime rates, hasn’t even made drugs more expensive, and literally costs seven times more than medically treating addiction or the mental health problems that lead people to abuse drugs. Michelle Alexander recently published "The New Jim Crow" documenting how the incarceration of people of color now exceeds the total ever enslaved in pre-Civil War America, and has produced a new kind of felon-based apartheid.

The “shocking” $10 billion in Alien expenses is also less than the cost of a single weapon system. For example, the U.S. has spent $100+ billion on the “Star Wars” missile defense system, and it still doesn’t work. If the U.S. spent on the Pentagon only three times what it’s nearest rival (China) spends on its military, there would be Federal budget surpluses as far as the eye can see. So...again, where’s Parker’s outrage?

What Ms. Parker is doing is a classic distraction. She strains at a gnat while swallowing a camel.

Then there’s the notion that these aliens are greedy for our jobs and medical benefits. There’s really no mention by the likes of Ms. Parker that they could have been driven out of their homes by things like illegal Central American wars, or NAFTA. Not only did the U.S. have to lend Mexico $20 billion because NAFTA started so much capital flight out of Mexico, in its wake median income in Mexico fell 34% (says Ravi Batra). That’s quite a hit to income when half the population gets by on less than $4/day, too.

So perhaps if we got a sense of proportion, and stopped meddling in Central America’s business, those “aliens” who build our cities, clean our homes and mow our lawns would do what the vast majority of them would prefer to do: stay home. Ask one, if you don’t believe me.

Meanwhile, I suggest Ms. Parker deploy her considerable energies at more worthy opponents than gnats and Mexicans, and Marketplace at least put such stories into a little perspective.

I must strongly disagree with Ms. Parker. Many of the other posts have delved into the factual inaccuracies of her statements and we need not beat a dead horse, but I wanted to point something out: Even if we gave every immigrant in California a resident ID number, they probably wouldn't pay taxes to begin with.

I'm not sure if anyone is aware of this but most illegal immigrants work menial jobs for LESS money than the employer would pay an American. 32% of low income American's are what the Wall St. Journal likes to refer to as "Lucky Duckies". Lucky Duckies are Americans, like you and I, who happen to fall below the tax line. But as Paul Krugman was so astute to point out (in 2003) if you account for payroll and sales taxes to a person making $12,000 a year would pay about 20% (4% of that in the form of federal income tax) of their income to taxes. Following this logic subtract out the 4% that the illegal immigrant doesn't contribute to our federal government the immigrant is still contributing roughly 16% of their income to taxes.

Immigrants also help to deflate the prices of the food you eat. Much in the same ways that companies outsource jobs to the pacific inorder to produce products for less, immigrants are hired to pick produce and cook your food. Apples are 1.29 per/lb now but imagine paying an American $12/hr to pick those same apples. If you'd like another example: The restaurant I work in can fire our illegal dishwasher and janitors and hire English speaking dishwashers and janitors for $10 an hour... You're burgers going to be a wee bit more expensive.

Immigration is a problem and it needs to be dealt with. But we must start by acknowledging that these people are here and are as much a part of the american fabric as our forefathers and mothers. No problem will be solved simply by sending everyone home. I am not an ilegal immigrant but I know a bunch, they are friends, some have married into my family, some are the very people I see on a daily basis, why send them home? They didn't get to choose to be born in their native land any more than you or I chose to be born here.

Thanks for you opinion, I think its great that Market Place allows for people to voice their opinions, we must remember that everyone's voice (no matter how much we disagree with them) is important.


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