Conservative Media Ignore That Immigration Reform Is An Economic Issue

Conservative media figures have criticized President Obama's focus on immigration reform, saying that the top priority should be the economy and jobs. In fact, immigration reform is an economic issue: studies show that it would boost economic output and lower unemployment.

Right-Wing Media Criticize Obama's Focus On Immigration Reform

Fox Business Guest Ed Rensi: “We've Got To Focus On Jobs, Jobs, Jobs, And More Jobs.” During an interview with former McDonald's CEO Ed Rensi, Fox Business host Charles Payne asked if the economy was a reason for the dip in President Obama's approval rating:  

RENSI: Here in Illinois, the middle class and lower are suffering terribly. Excess of regulation -- we've got constant problems with jobs and lack of jobs. You know, we keep getting these deflected issues in going after immigration and health care and all these scandals that's going on.  


RENSI: We've got to focus on jobs, jobs, jobs, and more jobs.

PAYNE: You know, I hear what you're saying. It sounds a whole lot like what this one guy named Mitt Romney was saying not too long ago and yet the masses sort of said, OK, you know, we're gonna go with the vision, with the green energy, with the guy that's gonna heal the nation, with the immigration policy.

Did this shift all of a sudden happen? Did people have a general epiphany that maybe the economy is not doing so well [Fox Business, Cavuto7/22/13]

Hot Air: “Obama Has Talked About Practically Everything Except The Economy, From Immigration To Gun Control.” In a post on Hot Air mocking the “pivots back to jobs and economic growth” President Obama has “promised,” conservative blogger Ed Morrissey wrote: “So far this year, Obama has talked about practically everything except the economy, from immigration to gun control, even though Americans are mainly concerned with jobs and unemployment.” [Hot Air, 7/22/13

Daily Caller Ignored Link Between Economy, Immigration Reform. In an article headlined, “Obama talks economy, but directs aides to immigration, Obamacare,” the Daily Caller suggested President Obama was being insincere to “publicly pivot back to the public's highest priority -- the economy,” while telling “his 300 campaign aides, community organizers, donors and top political allies that they would remain focused on issues that the public views as low priority.” To support this claim, the article highlighted polls that show that immigration reform is a low priority for Americans:

In April, Gallup reported that the economy and jobs were seen as the most important issues by 42 percent of the population. At least 20 million Americans are currently unemployed or underemployed.

In contrast, health-care scored 6 percent, and climate-change wasn't mentioned by the respondents. Immigration got only 4 percent.


In January, the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press also reported on the pubic's priorities. The economy scored 86 and jobs scored 79, giving them the two top slots.

“Dealing with illegal immigration” took the 17th ranking slot, with a score of 39, followed by a “strengthening gun laws,” at 37, and climate regulation won the last slot, with a score of 28. [Daily Caller, 7/23/13]

Laura Ingraham: Immigration Reform “Is An Insult To The American Worker.” On her radio show, Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham argued that those who support immigration reform are against the American worker, asking, “Where is the concern for the American family and the American worker, who are working not one job but two jobs to pay the bills? Who are working third shifts like my parents worked?” She went on to say that the “argument” that reform is going to benefit the economy “is an insult to the American worker.” [Courtside Entertainment Group, The Laura Ingraham Show6/12/13]

In Fact, Immigration Reform Has Everything To Do With The Economy

Immigration Reform Would Increase Revenues

ITEP: Newly Legalized Immigrants Would “Increase Their State And Local Tax Contributions By An Estimated $2 Billion A Year.” A study by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy found that while undocumented immigrants already contributed an estimated $10.6 billion to state and local taxes in 2010, if granted legal status, their contributions would increase by another $2 billion a year in state and local taxes:

  • Undocumented immigrants currently contribute significantly to state and local taxes, collectively paying an estimated $10.6 billion in 2010 with contributions ranging from less than $2 million in Montana to more than $2.2 billion in California. This means these families are likely paying about 6.4 percent on average of their income in state and local taxes.
  • Allowing undocumented immigrants to work in the United States legally would increase their state and local tax contributions by an estimated $2 billion a year. Their effective state and local tax rate would also increase to 7 percent on average, which would put their tax contributions more in line with documented taxpayers with similar incomes. [Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, July 2013

Social Security Administration: Immigration Reform Would Generate More Than $275 Billion In Social Security Tax Revenues Over 10 Years. As The Wall Street Journal reported, a study by the Social Security Administration found that if the Senate's immigration bill becomes law, the Social Security program will see increased revenues of “more than $275 billion” over 10 years while costs would increase “by $33 billion” as a result of the bill. [The Wall Street Journal5/8/13

CBO: Passing The 2006 Immigration Reform Bill Would Have Increased Revenues By "$66 Billion Over The 2007-2016 Period." The Congressional Budget Office found that if the 2006 comprehensive immigration reform bill had passed, it would have increased total federal revenues by about $66 billion over the 2007-2016 period. [Congressional Budget Office, 5/16/06

California And Federal Governments Lost Out On Almost $1.7 Billion In Taxes In 2009 Because Of Immigrants' Undocumented Status. A University of Southern California study found that due to the lack of legal status for the undocumented immigrant population in California, the state lost approximately $310 million in income taxes while the federal government lost $1.4 billion in income taxes in 2009. [Center for the Study of Immigration Integration, January 2010

Immigration Reform Would Create Millions Of Jobs

Immigration Reform Could Generate Almost 1.5 Million New Jobs By 2020. As The Wall Street Journal noted, a study by the nonpartisan Regional Economic Models found that creating a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants would add 550,000 jobs nationwide, increasing the number of high-skilled visas would generate another 400,000, and “revamping low-skilled programs, could increase employment by  468,000 by 2020.” [The Wall Street Journal7/16/13]

Immigrants Start More Businesses And Are Granted More Patents Than U.S.-Born Americans. An analysis by the Hamilton Project found that “immigrants are 30 percent more likely to form new businesses than U.S.-born citizens” and are “three times more likely to file patents than U.S.-born citizens.” [Hamilton Project, September 2010]

Companies Founded By Immigrants “Produced $52 Billion In Sales And Employed 450,000 Workers” In 2005. A research paper by the Brookings Institution found that companies founded by immigrants “produced $52 billion in sales and employed 450,000 workers” in 2005, and between 1995 and 2005 more than half of new tech start-up companies in Silicon Valley were founded by foreign-born owners. [Brookings Institution, January 2011]

Immigration Reform Would Increase Economic Output

Immigration Reform Would Increase Economic Output By $45 Billion By 2020. An article in The Wall Street Journal highlighting a study by the nonpartisan Regional Economic Models found that creating a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants would increase gross domestic product by $45 billion by 2020 and would “boost personal income by $115 billion” over the same time frame. [The Wall Street Journal7/7/13]

The Economy Would Increase By 3.3 Percent In 2023 And By 5.4 Percent In 2033. According to an analysis by the Congressional Budget Office of the Senate immigration bill, the legislation would “increase real (inflation adjusted ) GDP relative to the amount CBO projects under current law by 3.3 percent in 2023 and by 5.4 percent in 2033.” [Congressional Budget Office, June 2013]

Total Economic Output Would Rise Overall By 2.4 Percent In 2023 And 4.5 Percent In 2033. According to the CBO report, real Gross National Product (GNP) could increase by as much as 4.8 percent in 2033 but would be greater by 2.4 percent in 2023 and 4.5 percent in 2033:

The effects of the legislation on real GNP would be slightly smaller because increases in the rate of return on capital and in interest rates would imply greater flows of profits and interest to foreigners. According to CBO's central estimates, real GNP would be greater by 2.4 percent in 2023 and by 4.5 percent in 2033. Under the full range of estimates, the bill could boost GNP by an amount between 4.1 percent and 4.8 percent in 2033. [Congressional Budget Office, June 2013]

Immigration Reform Would Lower The Deficit

U.S. Could See A Net Savings Of $175 Billion From 2014 To 2023. According to a summary of the CBO's report, the United States would see the federal budget deficit decrease by $197 billion between 2014 to 2023. Combined with increased discretionary outlays of $22 billion over the same time period, the net savings for the U.S. would be $175 billion. [Congressional Budget Office, 6/18/13]

U.S. Could See A Net Savings Of $700 Billion From 2024 T0 2033. According to the CBO, changes in direct spending and revenues would decrease federal budget deficits by approximately $700 billion over the second decade following the bill's enactment:

The additional amount of federal direct spending stemming from enactment of S. 744 would grow after 2023 as more people became eligible for federal benefits as a result of the bill. The additional amount of federal revenues owing to the legislation also would increase after 2023 as the labor force continued to increase. On balance, CBO and JCT estimate that those changes in direct spending and revenues would decrease federal budget deficits by about $700 billion (or 0.2 percent of total output) over the 2024-2033 period. In addition, the legislation would have a net discretionary cost of $20 billion to $25 billion over the 2024-2033 period, assuming appropriation of the necessary amounts. According to CBO's central estimates (within a range that reflects the uncertainty about two key economic relationships in CBO's analysis), the economic impacts not included in the cost estimate would further reduce deficits (relative to the effects reported in the cost estimate) by about $300 billion over the 2024-2033 period. [Congressional Budget Office, 6/18/13]

Economist Douglas Holtz-Eakin: Immigration Reform Would “Reduce The Cumulative Federal Deficit By Over $2.5 Trillion.” According to an analysis of the effects of immigration reform conducted by former head of the Congressional Budget Office Douglas Holtz-Eakin, immigration reform could reduce the federal deficit by “a cumulative amount of $2.7 trillion” over 10 years:

Immigration reform will also influence the budget outlook through its impacts on economic growth. These impacts are “dynamic” effects in the parlance of federal budgeting. This is, any budgetary analysis that is conducted strictly using the baseline economic growth impacts will necessarily be incomplete by excluding the impacts that produce more rapid economic growth.

How large are these impacts? One metric is the CBO “rules of thumb” for linkages between the pace of real GDP growth and the federal budget. These indicate that over 10 years an additional 0.1 percentage in average economic growth will reduce the federal deficit by a bit over $300 billion. In this context, the rules imply that over the first 10 years of the benchmark immigration reform, the federal deficit would be reduced by a cumulative amount of $2.7 trillion. [American Action Forum, April 2013]

Immigration Reform Would Increase Wages Over Long Term

Economic Policy Institute: “Our Analysis Finds Little Evidence That Immigration Negatively Impacts Native-Born Workers.” An Economic Policy Institute study examining immigration's effect on wages found that there was little evidence to support the claim that immigration negatively impacts native-born workers. The study found that wages increased by at least $ 3.68 per week for native-born workers overall and $1.58 for those with less than a high school education. [Economic Policy Institute, 2/4/10]

CBO: Wages Would Be “Slightly Lower” Over The First Decade But Higher By Next Decade. According to the CBO, the rapid increase in the number of workers due to the immigration reform bill would temporarily decrease wages but those wages would increase in the second decade of the legislation:

CBO's central estimates also show that average wages for the entire labor force would be 0.1 percent lower in 2023 and 0.5 percent higher in 2033 under the legislation than under current law. Average wages would be slightly lower than under current law through 2024, primarily because the amount of capital available to workers would not increase as rapidly as the number of workers and because the new workers would be less skilled and have lower wages, on average, than the labor force under current law. However, the rate of return on capital would be higher under the legislation than under current law throughout the next two decades. [Congressional Budget Office, June 2013]

CBO: Immigration Bill Would Increase Average Wages, Boost Capital Investment, And Raise Productivity Of Labor And Capital Over Long Term.According to a summary by the CBO, long-term benefits to the U.S. economy include increases in employment, wages, capital investment, and productivity of labor and capital. [Congressional Budget Office, 6/18/13]