A Guide To The Myths & Facts On Obama’s Executive Actions On Immigration

On April 18, the U.S. Supreme Court “is weighing the fate” of President Obama’s 2014 executive actions on immigration which “could shield roughly 4 million people from deportation” and grant them legal right to work. Right-wing media have spent years misinforming about the legality, and economic impact of the executive actions. Here are the facts.

FACT: Experts Agree That Obama’s Actions Have Long Been Legal And “Don’t Even Come Close” To Violating The Constitution

FACT: “Under No Circumstances” Could The Policy “Be Considered ‘Amnesty’”

FACT: Journalists And Economists Agree That The Claim That Obama’s Immigration Action Will Cost $2 Trillion Is “Not Credible”

FACT: Immigrants Are Predicted To Pay More In Taxes Than They Receive In Benefits

FACT: Latino Immigration Boosts African-American Employment And Wages

FACT: Immigration Increases “The Opportunities And Incomes Of Americans”

Supreme Court To Hear Oral Arguments On Obama’s Executive Actions On Immigration

AP: The Supreme Court “Is Weighing The Fate” Of Obama Administration Immigration Programs “That Could Affect Millions Of People Who Are In The United States Illegally.” The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on April 18 in U.S. v. Texas, the challenge to Obama’s executive actions on immigration “that could shield roughly 4 million people from deportation and grant them the legal right to hold a job.” The court’s ruling on the programs -- Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) -- “could affect millions of people who are in the United States illegally”:

The raging political fight over immigration comes to the Supreme Court on Monday in a dispute that could affect millions of people who are in the United States illegally.

The court is weighing the fate of Obama administration programs that could shield roughly 4 million people from deportation and grant them the legal right to hold a job.


The programs announced by President Barack Obama in November 2014 would apply to parents whose children are citizens or are living in the country legally. ... More than 700,000 people have taken advantage of that earlier program, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. The new program for parents and the expanded program for children could reach as many as 4 million people, according to the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute.

Texas and 25 other states sued to block the new initiatives soon after they were announced, and lower courts have ruled in their favor. The programs have never taken effect.


A decision in favor of the administration would allow the programs to take effect in the waning months of Obama's presidency. A loss or even a tie vote would block them for the foreseeable future.


A decision in U.S. v. Texas, 15-674, is expected by late June. [Associated Press, 4/14/16]

Right-Wing Media Have Spent Years Misinforming About Obama’s Immigration Executive Actions

Myth: Obama’s Executive Actions Would “Violate The Constitution” And “Stir Impeachment Talks”

Fox’s Jedediah Bila: Obama's Proposed Immigration Action “Is Forcing The Impeachment Issue.” On the August 4, 2014, edition of Fox News’ Outnumbered, co-host Jedediah Bila asserted that the executive action the president was then considering and has since put forward is “forcing the impeachment issue” because it would offer “executive amnesty to millions of people” and “he's forcing us to bring that up because he refuses to enforce the laws as they stand.”

SANDRA SMITH (CO-HOST): Jedediah, what do you make of the fact of Governor Perry pointing out that the unaccompanied children that we’re talking about everyday, this is just a side-issue compared to the illegal immigrants who are coming into this country and committing crimes?

JEDEDIAH BILA (CO-HOST): I think he’s absolutely right. And I think everyone’s afraid to point out this impeachment issue when it comes to President Obama because everyone thinks it’s totally unrealistic. But the truth is we now have a president that’s not enforcing the law. He’s not enforcing immigration law. He’s getting up everyday and deciding which components of this law he thinks should be enforced and which ones shouldn’t. I mean, you’re talking about executive amnesty to millions of people. So if you’re going to talk about who’s forcing the impeachment issue, this president is forcing that issue. He’s forcing us to bring that up because he refuses to enforce the laws as they stand. [Fox News, Outnumbered, 8/4/14]

Charles Krauthammer: Obama’s Executive Action On Immigration Could Cause A “Constitutional Crisis And Stir Impeachment Talk.” In an August 7, 2014, Washington Post piece, Fox News contributor and Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer claimed that executive action on immigration would “undoubtedly provoke a constitutional crisis and stir impeachment talk”:

The White House is coy as to exactly what the president will do. But the leaks point to an executive order essentially legalizing an enormous new class of illegal immigrants, perhaps up to 5 million people.


An executive order so sweeping and egregiously lawless would be impeachment bait. It would undoubtedly provoke a constitutional crisis and stir impeachment talk -- and perhaps even the beginning of proceedings -- thus scrambling the electoral deck. As in 1998, it would likely backfire against the GOP and save Democrats from an otherwise certain sixth-year midterm shellacking.

Such a calculation -- amnesty-by-fiat to deliberately court impeachment -- is breathtakingly cynical. But clever. After all, there is no danger of impeachment succeeding. There will never be 67 votes in the Senate to convict. But talking it up is a political bonanza for Democrats, stirring up an otherwise listless and dispirited base. [The Washington Post8/7/14]

Mark Levin: Obama's “Plan” Is To “Violate The Constitution” By “Unilaterally Rewrit[ing] Our Immigration Laws.” On the October 3, 2014, edition of his radio show, Levin complained that Obama's executive action on immigration would violate the Constitution:

MARK LEVIN (HOST): So if the president of the United States violates the Constitution, which is his plan, unilaterally rewrites our immigration laws which is his plan, to create five to six million democrats, which is his plan. And if the Republicans stand up to it and try to prevent it, it’s the end of the Republican Party. [Premiere Radio Networks, The Mark Levin Show10/3/14]

Fact: Experts Agree That Obama’s Actions Have Long Been Legal And “Don’t Even Come Close” To Violating The Constitution 

Leading Law Professors: Presidents Have Granted Deferred Action To Undocumented Immigrants “Historically and Recently.” In 2012, almost 100 law professors wrote a memo to the president explaining the decades-old legal precedent for the executive branch to exercise prosecutorial discretion and defer action on the deportation of certain undocumented immigrants. These arguments were used by the White House when it created DACA, a use of “clear executive authority” that is a “long-standing form of administrative relief”:

Deferred action is a long-standing form of administrative relief, originally known as “nonpriority enforcement status.” It is one of many forms of prosecutorial discretion available to the Executive Branch. A grant of deferred action can have any of several effects, depending on the timing of the grant. It can prevent an individual from being placed in removal proceedings, suspend any proceedings that have commenced, or stay the enforcement of any existing removal order. It also makes the recipient eligible to apply for employment authorization. General authority for deferred action exists under Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) § 103(a), 8 U.S.C. § 103(a), which grants the Secretary of Homeland Security the authority to enforce the immigration laws. Though no statutes or regulations delineate deferred action in specific terms, the U.S. Supreme Court has made clear that decisions to initiate or terminate enforcement proceedings fall squarely within the authority of the Executive. In the immigration context, the Executive Branch has exercised its general enforcement authority to grant deferred action since at least 1971. Federal courts have acknowledged the existence of this executive power at least as far back as the mid-1970s. [Letter, “re: Executive authority to grant administrative relief for DREAM Act beneficiaries,” 5/28/12]

Former President Of American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA): DACA And Similar Relief “Don't Even Come Close” To Violating the Constitution. David Leopold, former president of AILA, explained that accusations of lawlessness in regards to an expansion of DACA are “not even close to correct.” As Leopold explained in a blog post for The Hill, executive action of this sort is the next step in formalizing already existing enforcement practice:

Critics have questioned the president's authority to do so. A broad, categorical deferral of deportation, they contend, grossly exceeds the President's executive authority amounting to “amnesty by fiat.” The Washington Post Editorial Board went so far as to warn that Congressional dysfunction “does not grant the president license to tear up the Constitution.” New York Times columnist Ross Douthat characterized it as an “extraordinary, reckless and (yes) ceasarist” abuse of executive authority, “worthy of outcry and opposition.”

Those are some pretty serious claims. Fortunately, they are not even close to correct.

Even Obama's most ardent critics must concede that his constitutional duty to faithfully execute the immigration law gives him wide latitude in its enforcement. What's less clear are the limits of that authority. How far can the president go?

The reason this is not an easy call is because the line between exercising discretion over enforcement and crossing over to policy making is often blurred. One thing that exemplifies this is determining when a case-by-case grant of discretion crosses over to a categorical grant. Critics like to argue that case-by-case exercises of discretion are acceptable but categorical are not.

But it does not follow that this crosses that line. As long as the administrative decision to defer the removal of a group of undocumented immigrants is legitimately aimed at more efficient use of law enforcement resources, it arguably falls well within the president's discretion. This includes the discretion to defer the deportation of undocumented immigrants -- individually or as a group -- if doing so allows the administration to focus resources on keeping the country safe.

In fact, presidents of both parties have used categorical grants of deferred action to postpone the deportation of large groups of undocumented immigrants, including abused women, hurricane victims and refugees.

Therefore, to violate the constitution, the president's action must be a dramatic, extraordinary departure from universally accepted exercises of executive discretion. DACA or its expansion don't even come close. [The Hill8/12/14]

American Immigration Council: “There Is No Serious Doubt About The President's Legal Authority” To Defer Deportations. In an August issue brief, UCLA law professor Hiroshi Motomura explained, “There is no serious doubt about the President’s legal authority” to defer deportations with executive orders:

Congress has created a system that requires the executive branch to create classifications for hands-on enforcement purposes, which in turn define the actual substance of immigration law. The President is the ultimate supervisor of executive branch officials who make countless discretionary decisions that determine who will be forced to leave the United States, and who can stay even if they are here unlawfully.

To be consistent with the rule of law, these discretionary decisions should be based on consistent and uniform application of enforcement priorities. Sometimes, government decisions to grant relief from deportation are made in the public eye. For example, immigration judges exercise judicial discretion on a daily basis, to grant relief in court hearings that follow criteria set out in statutes and case law. But far less visible are executive branch decisions about how to spend funds appropriated for enforcement, when to conduct raids at some homes and factories but not others, or whether to try to deport some noncitizens but not others.


There is no serious doubt about the President’s legal authority to issue these guidelines. Working within this zone of prosecutorial discretion, the guidelines were a sensible measure to bring consistency, predictability, and non-discrimination to enforcement. Put differently, the guidelines applied rule of law principles to an immigration system whose hallmarks are selective admissions and selective enforcement, and which in turn relies heavily on prosecutorial discretion.15 These decisions were all in the exercise of the President’s legal authority, and indeed his obligation to faithfully execute the immigration laws.


[S]ome of the President's critics argue that he exceeded his legal authority with DACA, and that he lacks authority to make other groups of unauthorized migrants eligible for similar temporary relief. But that view is wrong because it ignores key facts. No one is suggesting that the President unilaterally change the rules for granting permanent residence or citizenship. All that is on the table are temporary reprieves. More fundamentally, the U.S. immigration system is one of selective admissions, selective enforcement, and broad executive branch discretion. As this system's chief prosecutor, the President must establish enforcement priorities, and then make sure that discretionary decisions to apply those priorities are uniform, predictable, and nondiscriminatory. As long as the President acts within this role, exercising his prosecutorial discretion to administer enforcement consistent with rule of law principles, he remains well within his legal authority. [American Immigration Council, “The President's Discretion, Immigration Enforcement, & The Rule Of Law,” August 2014]

Myth: Executive Action Gives Millions Of Undocumented Immigrants “Amnesty”

National Review: Obama’s Immigration Action Is Executive Amnesty Overreach.” In a November 11 National Review article, Michelle Malkin labeled the immigration plan “Obama’s executive amnesty overreach”:

On Monday, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals told the immigration power-grabbers in the Obama administration to stuff it.

The amnesty sympathizers in the media mourned mightily.

“Appeals court rules against Obama’s plan to protect about 5 million people from deportation,” the Associated Press spun.

“Court again blocks Obama’s plan to protect undocumented migrants,” the left-wing U.K.

Guardian decried.

“President Barack Obama’s executive action to shield millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation suffered a legal setback on Monday with an appeal to the Supreme Court now the administration’s only option,” Reuters reported.

Or rather, editorialized in the guise of reporting.

By a 2-1 decision, the federal judges handed a landmark victory to 26 states, led by Texas, that forcefully challenged the legality of Obama’s executive amnesty overreach. [National Review11/11/15]

Breitbart News: Undocumented Immigrants Would Have Been “Granted Amnesty” By Obama’s Executive Action. In a November 24, 2014, article, Breitbart News asserted that Obama's policy would have ”granted amnesty" to undocumented immigrants:

The undocumented immigrants granted amnesty by President Barack Obama's executive orders will likely cost taxpayers $2 trillion, according to Heritage Foundation poverty expert Robert Rector. [Breitbart News, 11/24/14]

The Daily Caller: Obama's Action Is “Amnesty For Four Million Illegal Immigrants.” In a November 23, 2014, article, The Daily Caller claimed that Obama's immigration action is “amnesty for four million illegal immigrants”:

President Barack Obama's amnesty for four million illegal immigrants will cost Americans about $2 trillion, or roughly $40 billion a year for the next five decades. [The Daily Caller, 11/23/14]

Fact: “Under No Circumstances” Could The Action “Be Considered ‘Amnesty’”

Wash. Post's Kessler: “Under No Circumstances Could Obama's Action Be Considered 'Amnesty.'” In a November 3, 2014, post on Washington Post's Fact Checker blog, Glenn Kessler debunked the right-wing claim that Obama intends to “give amnesty” to undocumented immigrants, explaining that “under no circumstances could Obama’s action be considered “amnesty”" because “Immigrants in theory would still face legal risk because an executive order can be changed by Obama’s successor”:

At this point no one really knows the exact impact. But the odds are the number will be much less than 11 million — and under no circumstances could Obama’s action be considered “amnesty.” Immigrants in theory would still face legal risk because an executive order can be changed by Obama’s successor.


As we have noted before, “amnesty” is a loaded phrase when used in the context of illegal immigration. The dictionary definition is: “The act of an authority (as a government) by which pardon is granted to a large group of individuals.”

The Fact Checker does not take a position on the bill -- or on someone's belief that any path to citizenship is, in effect, “amnesty.”

But the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act, which was approved in the Senate in 2013 on a vote of 68 to 32, including the support of 14 Republicans, did not contain anything as sweeping as that dictionary definition of amnesty.

If the bill had become law, undocumented aliens would have had to jump through all sorts of hoops before they could be considered for legal permanent residence, including registering with the government, having a steady job, paying a fine, paying back taxes, passing background checks, learning English -- and then getting in line behind immigrants who had entered the country legally. It would have taken at least 13 years before citizenship could be obtained.

By its very nature, a presidential executive order would be even less than that, since an executive order does not permanently change the law. [The Washington Post11/3/14]

Myth: Obama’s Actions On Immigration Will Cost $2 Trillion

The Daily Caller: “Obama's Amnesty For Four Million Illegal Immigrants Will Cost Americans About $2 Trillion, Or Roughly $40 Billion A Year.” In a November 23, 2014, article, The Daily Caller cited the Heritage Foundation’s Robert Rector, who claimed in a 2013 study that “President Barack Obama's amnesty for four million illegal immigrants will cost Americans about $2 trillion, or roughly $40 billion a year for the next five decades”:

President Barack Obama's amnesty for four million illegal immigrants will cost Americans about $2 trillion, or roughly $40 billion a year for the next five decades.


The $2 trillion cost is driven by the federal government's support for all poor people, says Robert Rector, a budget analyst at the Heritage Foundation. Rector explained that, on average, the illegal immigrants benefiting from the amnesty have a 10th grade education.

That low education ensures they can't earn enough money, or pay enough taxes, to pay for the many benefits they'll get if they progress from temporary residents to legal residents and then to citizens, Rector said. [The Daily Caller, 11/23/14]

Breitbart News: “Undocumented Immigrants Granted Amnesty … Will Likely Cost Taxpayers $2 Trillion.” In a November 24, 2014, article, Breitbart News cited Rector to claim that undocumented immigrants who were “granted amnesty” by Obama's actions “will likely cost taxpayers $2 trillion”:

The undocumented immigrants granted amnesty by President Barack Obama's executive orders will likely cost taxpayers $2 trillion, according to Heritage Foundation poverty expert Robert Rector.

“The net cost -- which is total benefits minus total benefits paid in -- of the amnesty recipients I estimate will be around $2 trillion over the course of their lifetime,” Rector explained in an interview with Breitbart News Monday. He added that the calculation is based on the assumption that 4 million undocumented immigrants will participate and they will live, on average, 50 years.

According to Rector -- who has published extensively on welfare, poverty, and immigration -- the cost has two components: The first is the potential to access Social Security and Medicare, given amnestied undocumented immigrants' ability to obtain work permits and Social Security Numbers. [Breitbart News, 11/24/14]

Fox’s Bill Hemmer: “The President’s Immigration Overhaul” Will Cost "$2 Trillion" Over 50 Years. On the November 24, 2014, edition of Fox News’ America's Newsroom, host Bill Hemmer asserted that the president's immigration actions will cost "$2 trillion dollars." Fox Business host Stuart Varney claimed that according to the Heritage Foundation, the “cost of giving amnesty to 4 million people is $40 billion a year”:  

BILL HEMMER (HOST): So the president’s immigration overhaul will allow millions of illegals to stay in the country. We know that. Amnesty, however, comes at a big price. According to the Heritage Foundation that price is $2 trillion. How does that break down?  Roughly $40 billion a year for 50 years. That’s equivalent to a $22,000 tax on every U.S. college student with a four-year degree. Or paying 30 extra cents for every gallon of gasoline you buy. Stuart Varney from the Fox Business Network is with me on this. Heritage Foundation found what based on this number?

STUART VARNEY: The one single number to concentrate on is the cost of giving amnesty to 4 million people is $40 billion a year. [Fox News, America's Newsroom11/25/14]

Fact: Journalists And Economists Agree That The Claim That Obama’s Immigration Action Will Cost $2 Trillion Is “Not Credible”

Wash. Post's Wonkblog: “The Heritage Numbers Simply Are Not Credible.” According to then-Washington Post writer Dylan Matthews, Heritage’s 2013 estimate does not acknowledge that “immigration is a net economic boon.” Matthews wrote that “the Heritage numbers simply are not credible”:

[The Heritage Foundation's Robert] Rector and [Jason] Richwine are certainly correct that making currently ineligible immigrants eligible for means-tested benefits and retirement entitlements has a real budgetary cost. But in the long run, we know that immigration is a net economic boon, and in particular for immigrants, which reduces their fiscal cost and increases our ability to pay for what benefits they do receive. And the best study we have on the fiscal effects of immigration reform, from the CBO, finds the impact to be minimal or positive.

Pay attention to that study. Pay attention to whatever score the CBO puts out of the Gang of 8 bill. But the Heritage numbers simply are not credible. [The Washington Post5/6/13]

AEI's James Pethokoukis: Heritage Study “Fails To Capture Indirect But Important Economic Impacts Of Immigration.” In a May 6, 2013, blog post, American Enterprise Institute (AEI) columnist James Pethokoukis explained that the Heritage study “fails to capture indirect but important economic impacts of immigration”:

The study, however, fails to capture indirect but important economic impacts of immigration such as increasing economic activity or positively affecting American employment. Both of those would lead to higher tax revenues and reduced transfer payments. Surely every effort should be given to factoring in such dynamic impacts of immigration reform. The Heritage study says, for instance, that “taxes and benefits must be viewed holistically.” So, too, immigration overall. Big policy changes don't exist in a vacuum, isolated from the rest of the economy.

Not making these added calculations raises red flags as to the study's completeness. What about studies of US states that find economic contributions of low-skill immigrants “dwarf their fiscal costs.” Another example: Heritage claims “that unlawful immigration appears to depress the wages of low-skill US-born and lawful immigrant workers by 10 percent, or $2,300, per year.” Yet other highly regarded research finds wage gains at all education levels for US-born workers.

Is immigration reform that potentially expands the population of less-skilled individuals a smart economic policy or not? It's impossible to draw a reasonable conclusion based only on the Heritage study. [American Enterprise Institute, 5/6/13]

Myth: Immigrants Relieved From Deportation Will “Get A Lot More Government Money Than They’re Paying In”

National Review: “The Vast Majority Of Undocumented Aliens Don’t Make Enough In Income To Have A Net Income-Tax Liability.” In a November 20, 2014, post, National Review writer Avik Roy claimed that "the vast majority of undocumented aliens don't make enough in income to have a net income-tax liability.” Roy also asserted, “Legalizing this population is unlikely to result in significantly higher payroll-tax revenue, because many illegals have fake Social Security numbers that their employers use to pay payroll taxes on their behalf”:

President Obama says that his executive order will ensure that currently illegal immigrants will have to “pay their fair share of taxes.” But the vast majority of undocumented aliens don’t make enough in income to have a net income-tax liability.


Legalizing this population is unlikely to result in significantly higher payroll-tax revenue, because many illegals have fake Social Security numbers that their employers use to pay payroll taxes on their behalf. [National Review11/20/14]

Fox's Tucker Carlson: Undocumented Immigrants Are “Going To Get A Lot More Government Money Than They're Paying In.” On the November 21, 2014, edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends, co-host Tucker Carlson said that undocumented immigrants affected by Obama’s immigration actions, who will begin paying taxes, will “get a lot more government money than they're paying in” because “most of these families don't make enough to pay income taxes”:

TUCKER CARLSON (HOST): The president says they're going to pay taxes, but most of these families don't make enough to pay income taxes. In fact, they get money back on the Earned Income Tax Credit. So in fact, they're going to get a lot more government money than they're paying in, no?

STUART VARNEY: I think the taxes that he's referring to are Social Security taxes, which you would, in fact, pay as soon as you go on the books. But you're right. The income of many of the people who are allowed to stay is so low that they don't meet the threshold for state or federal income taxes and probably get a check in the mail in January from the Earned Income Tax Credit.

CARLSON: So we're sending more checks to more people who aren't even here legally?

VARNEY: That will probably happen. [Fox News, Fox & Friends11/21/14]

Daily Caller: “Illegal Immigrants Will Receive Huge Payments From American Taxpayers.” In a November 20, 2014, article, the Daily Caller claimed that “Illegal immigrants will receive huge payments from American taxpayers under rules now being imposed by President Barack Obama's unilateral amnesty” because, in part, “once illegal immigrants are enrolled in the tax system, they would be entitled to EITC payments.” The article said that “Most households of illegals have very low income” and that “payments may be huge, and will rise each year:”

Illegal immigrants will receive huge payments from American taxpayers under rules now being imposed by President Barack Obama’s unilateral amnesty.

The illegals will get work-permits and Social Security cards, and will be required to pay taxes, according to Cecilia Munoz, the former immigration lobbyist who is now a top Obama aide.

That means they’re part of the tax system, she said, when she was asked if the illegals would get annual payments under the Earned Income Tax Credit program.


Most households of illegals have very low income, and pay little in taxes. For example, in 2011, roughly 22 percent of immigrant households — both legal and illegal — were classified as living in poverty. In contrast, only 13 percent of American households were in poverty.

However, once illegal immigrants are enrolled in the tax system, they would be entitled to EITC payments.

The payments may be huge, and will rise each year. [The Daily Caller, 11/20/14]

Fact: Immigrants Are Predicted To Pay More In Taxes Than They Receive In Benefits

ITEP: Tax Contributions By Undocumented Workers “Would Increase By More Than $800 Million” If Executive Action Is Upheld. A February 2016 analysis by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) reported that “undocumented immigrants contribute more than $11.6 billion” at the state and local level, and on average, pay 8 percent of their income in taxes. According to the report, these contributions “would increase by an estimated $805 million” if Obama's executive action is upheld by the Supreme Court:

The report, Undocumented Immigrants’ State and Local Tax Contributions, provides state-by-state and national estimates on undocumented immigrants,’ current state and local tax contributions, including a breakdown of sales and excise, personal income, and property taxes. The report further provides estimates for each state showing how much larger these tax contributions would be if all undocumented immigrants were granted legal status under a comprehensive immigration reform and if President Obama’s 2012 and 2014 executive actions were upheld.

The report’s key findings:

  • Undocumented immigrants contribute significantly to state and local governments, collectively paying an estimated $11.6 billion in state and local taxes.
  • Undocumented immigrants’ nationwide average effective state and local tax rate (the share of income they pay in state and local taxes) is an estimated 8 percent. (The top 1 percent of taxpayers nationwide pay an average effective tax rate of just 5.4 percent.)
  • Granting legal status to all 11 million undocumented immigrants as part of a comprehensive immigration reform and allowing them to work in the United States legally would increase their state and local tax contributions by an estimated $2.1 billion a year. Their effective tax rate would increase from 8 to 8.6 percent.
  • The state and local tax contributions of the 5 million undocumented immigrants who could be directly impacted by President Obama’s 2012 and 2014 executive actions would increase by an estimated $805 million if the actions are upheld. State and local revenue gains from the executive actions are smaller than gains from granting legal status to all undocumented immigrants because the actions (if upheld) would only affect about 46 percent of the undocumented population and the actions do not grant a full pathway to lawful permanent residence. [ITEP, February 2016]

CNN: Creating A Path To Legal Status For Undocumented Immigrants Would “Created Even More Tax Revenue” And “Could Reduce Deficits By $175 Billion.” In a November 20, 2014, article, CNN explained that creating “a path to legal status for many undocumented immigrants” would “create even more tax revenue by way of income and payroll taxes. That could reduce deficits by $175 billion over the first 10 years and by at least $700 billion in the second decade.” CNN.com also pointed out that “allowing certain immigrants to stay in the country and work legally would boost state and local tax contributions by $2 billion a year”:

A 2013 CBO analysis of the failed bipartisan bill introduced by the so-called “gang of 8” that would have created a path to legal status for many undocumented immigrants found that increasing legal immigration would increase government spending on refundable tax credits, Medicaid and health insurance subsidies, among other federal benefits. But it would also create even more tax revenue by way of income and payroll taxes. That could reduce deficits by $175 billion over the first 10 years and by at least $700 billion in the second decade.

[The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy] ITEP estimates that allowing certain immigrants to stay in the country and work legally would boost state and local tax contributions by $2 billion a year. [CNN.com, 11/20/14]

Politico: Immigrants' Tax Contributions Will “More Than Make Up For” Federal Tax Credits They Receive. In a November 20, 2014, article Politico explained that while some of the immigrants affected will likely qualify for tax credits that benefit the working poor, their overall tax contributions will "more than make up for the credits the government pays to them”:

Obama’s new immigration order, which will shield about 5 million undocumented workers from deportation, will have tax implications that are sure to irk Republicans who are already calling foul on his bid to bypass Congress to ease immigration laws.

That’s because most of that group of 5 million will be adults with U.S.-born children, meaning they’ll theoretically be able to claim up to $1,000 per child for child tax credit, or several thousand dollars as part of another tax credit for the working poor, experts said.

But the 5 million will also pay a modest amount of new taxes to Uncle Sam that experts said will more than make up for the credits the government pays to them -- potentially even creating a small plus-up for the Treasury.

“You would see a gain in earnings, in tax compliance, and some gain in the claim of tax credits -- and the net of all that would almost surely be positive,” said David Kallick, a senior fellow at the immigration research initiative at the Fiscal Policy Institute.

Indeed, the Congressional Budget Office scored the Senate's landmark 2013 immigration overhaul as reducing the deficit by nearly $200 billion over a decade -- in part because of nearly $460 billion in projected new tax revenue.

But that was based on a comprehensive immigration reform package that would have given legal status to 8 million of the current undocumented population and increased permanent residents in the U.S. by more than 10 million over a decade.

Obama's plan will be a fraction of that, and under much different circumstances.


The left-leaning Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy in 2013 released a report showing a $2 billion gain in state revenue from immigration reform -- even after tax credits were taken into consideration.

Matt Gardner, ITEP executive director, said the new program's effects won't be quite as big, but it will still be a net gain. That's because immigrants already pay a bunch of state and local tax. [Politico11/20/14]

Center For American Progress: Tax Revenue Would Increase If Immigrants Who Have Been In The U.S. For More Than 5 Years Worked Legally. A 2014 report from the Center for American Progress (CAP) found that making undocumented immigrants eligible for work permits would increase tax revenue by $6.1 billion in payroll taxes in the next year and would contribute a total of $45 billion over five years. Obama's plan acts similarly, though it does not expand protections to all undocumented immigrants who have been in the U.S. for that length of time. From CAP (emphasis original):

Expanding the Deferred Action program would immediately yield billions of dollars in tax revenues, while increasing wages and job security for all Americans. Allowing low-priority unauthorized immigrants who have been in the country for five years to apply for deferred action -- a temporary work permit and deferral of deportation -- would mean that they could earn higher average wages and protection from exploitation. This would have a significant impact on the U.S. economy, yielding $6.1 billion in payroll tax revenue in the first year and increasing gains of up to $45 billion over the next five years. [Center for American Progress, 10/23/14]

Myth: DACA Will “Detrimentally Impact Black Workers”

Breitbart News Immigration Action Will “Detrimentally Impact Black Workers.” In a November 20, 2014, post, Breitbart News claimed that “granting illegal immigrants work permits will detrimentally impact black workers.” [Breitbart News, 11/20/14]

Laura Ingraham: Obama’s Immigration Action “Will Destroy Opportunities For Millions Of Black People Across This Country.” On the November 21, 2014, edition of Courtside Entertainment Group’s The Laura Ingraham Show, Ingraham asserted that Obama's executive action “will destroy opportunities for millions of black people across this country”:

LAURA INGRAHAM: All of the people who are considering protesting in Ferguson because of the Michael Brown shooting, you might want to think about protesting this. You might want to think about protesting something that will destroy opportunities for millions of black people across this country. I know it kind of conflicts with what you think about Barack Obama, and part of you loves Barack Obama because he represents so much to you, and I get that. But for our African-American listeners, and we have a lot -- think about what this says and does to you. And not just of course to black Americans, to anyone here legally or a citizen. [Courtside Entertainment Group, The Laura Ingraham Show11/21/14]

Fact: Latino Immigration Boosts African-American Employment And Wages

Immigration Policy Center: “Latino Immigration Boosts African American Employment And Wages.” A 2013 analysis from the American Immigration Council's Immigration Policy Center titled “Allies, Not Enemies: How Latino Immigration Boosts African American Employment and Wages,” found that “Latino immigrants and African Americans fill complementary roles in the labor market” and that cities are actually “rejuvenated by an inflow of Latino immigrants,” leading to higher wages, lower poverty, and lower unemployment in local African-American populations:

The evidence shows that cities with greater immigration from Latin America experience:

1. Higher wages for African Americans. For every 1% increase in a city's share of Latinos, African median and mean wages increase by 3%. This relationship is large. Consider St. Louis, which has 1.5% of its population from Latin America. If St. Louis were to have a Latino population share as large as other large metropolitan areas, African American wages would be approximately 30% higher.

2. Lower shares of African Americans in poverty (less than $20,000) and greater shares of African Americans who are well-off (incomes exceeding $60,000). For every 1% increase in a city's share of Latinos, the city experiences a 1.6% increase in relatively well-off African Americans and fall in poor African Americans.

3. Less poverty across different African American age groups. A 1% increase in a city's young (ages 18-24), middle aged (25-34) and more mature Latinos (35-64) yields approximately 1.1-2.3% fewer African Americans in poverty in the same age cohorts. At the same time, more young, middle-aged, and older Latinos lead to more African Americans of similar cohorts with incomes exceeding $60,000.

4. Lower African American unemployment. This finding is significant at the 99% level across different age cohorts. For instance, cities with a 1% increase in Latinos ages 20-24 leads to a .26% decrease in unemployment rates among African Americans ages 20-24; a rise in Latinos ages 25-34 implies even greater declines in African Americans unemployment with ages 25-34.

5. More jobs among all African American age cohorts. A 1% rise in Latino immigration contributes to a 1.4% increase in employment rates among African Americans, and increases in young Latinos (20-24) contribute to 0.5% increase in employment among young African Americans. [Immigration Policy Center, 6/12/13]

Myth: Jobs Will Go To Foreign Workers Over Americans

Daily Caller: “Obama's Amnesty Will Add As Many Foreign Workers As New Jobs Since 2009.” The Daily Caller claimed that “Obama's unilateral amnesty will quickly add as many foreign workers to the nation's legal labor force as the total number of new jobs created by his economy since 2009” and that immigrants will displace American workers and depress wages:

The surplus of domestic and foreign job-seekers also helps ensure that U.S. median wages have flat-lined since 2000. Economists -- including Obama's top economic adviser -- say that wages stall when the labor supply is larger than the supply of new jobs.

But if the labor market tightens because the number of job-seekers is fewer than than number of new jobs, the wages will rise in the tight labor market. For example, in the late 1990s, even lower-skilled people saw their wages increase because the labor supply grew slower than the Internet-boosted job market.

That relationship, however, is shifted by technology, which creates and eliminates jobs for Americans. [The Daily Caller, 11/20/14]

Fox & Friends: “Every Job Created Under Obama Could Go To An Illegal Alien.” On the November 21, 2014, edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends, co-hosts Tucker Carlson and Elisabeth Hasselbeck agreed that the executive action could displace millions of American workers and counteract all the job growth the U.S. economy has seen since Obama's presidency began:

TUCKER CARLSON: This is a big deal. I mean, this is a vast number. Just to put it in some perspective, the president has just added to the U.S. workforce legally about the same number of people as jobs that have been created during his presidency. That's another way of saying, every job created under Obama could go to an illegal alien. I mean, the numbers match up exactly. And by the way, since the '70s, you know what is the lowest since the '70s? The labor force participation rate. There are fewer Americans working, 63 percent as of today,even looking for a job.

ELISABETH HASSELBECK: Well, and now they have new competition coming their way with these work permits. [Fox News, Fox & Friends11/21/14]

Fact: Immigration Increases “The Opportunities And Incomes Of Americans”

Immigration Policy Center: There Is “Little Apparent Relationship” Between Immigration and Unemployment Statistics. According to the Immigration Policy Center, there is “little apparent relationship” between immigration and unemployment statistics (emphasis original):

An IPC analysis of 2011 data from the American Community Survey found that, at the county level, there is no statistically significant relationship between the unemployment rate and the presence of recent immigrants who arrived in 2000 or later. [Immigration Policy Center, 6/12/13]

Brookings Institution: “Immigrant Workers Increase The Opportunities And Incomes Of Americans.” In a May 4, 2012 blog post, The Brookings Institution explained that “ the most recent economic evidence suggests that, on average, immigrant workers increase the opportunities and incomes of Americans,” pointing out that “economists do not tend to find that immigrants cause any sizeable decrease in wages and employment of U.S.-born citizens … and instead may raise wages and lower prices in the aggregate”:

Although many are concerned that immigrants compete against Americans for jobs, the most recent economic evidence suggests that, on average, immigrant workers increase the opportunities and incomes of Americans.  Based on a survey of the academic literature, economists do not tend to find that immigrants cause any sizeable decrease in wages and employment of U.S.-born citizens (Card 2005), and instead may raise wages and lower prices in the aggregate (Ottaviano and Peri 2008; Ottaviano and Peri 2010; Cortes 2008).


Because of these factors, economists have found that immigrants slightly raise the average wages of all U.S.-born workers. As illustrated by the right-most set of bars in the chart below, estimates from opposite ends of the academic literature arrive at this same conclusion, and point to small but positive wage gains of between 0.1 and 0.6 percent for American workers. [The Brookings Institution, 5/4/12]

Economist Ben Powell: “Immigrants Both Take Jobs And Create Jobs.” On the November 9 edition of Fox Business’ Stossel, economist Ben Powell explained that “on net,” immigrants “don’t take jobs” because “Immigrants both take jobs and create jobs”:

JOHN STOSSEL (HOST): The people who say they take jobs. It's logical. They do take some jobs. So what's your answer to that?

BEN POWELL: That on net they don't take jobs. Immigrants both take jobs and create jobs.

STOSSEL: The seen versus the unseen. Explain that.

POWELL: You can take this camera that I'm looking at right now and you can stick on somebody who used to do, say, landscaping, and you can say, “I used to do this job and look, there's an immigrant doing that job right now.” That's the displace -- but also, it frees up American labor to do the things we're better suited to do, and that creates jobs. But those jobs are statistical because jobs are created because of technological changes, changes in resource costs, all sorts of things. So it's hard to stick a camera on the person who got the job, but it's certainly real. Just think about what's happened to the size of the labor force since the end of World War II. We've had massive entry of women, baby boomers, and after 1965, immigrants into the work force. We've roughly tripled the size of the civilian labor force, but we've seen no long-term increase in unemployment. As we've almost tripled the number of workers, we've almost tripled the number of jobs. We have a limitless desire for goods and services. As we get more workers, we put them to work doing those things.


Even the low-skilled ones [immigrants] who don't create businesses that create jobs perform tasks that their labor is better suited to than the American labor. The case for more immigration into the United States as an economic gain to us is the exact same as for international trade in goods and services. It's not about net number of jobs, it's about changing the mix of jobs so that the native-born citizens do the things we're better suited to do. When the brain surgeon hires an immigrant to mow his lawn, that frees him up to do more brain surgeries, making us more productive. [Fox Business, Stossel11/9/15]