Memo To CNBC Debate Moderators: Don't Fall For These Right-Wing Media Myths About The Economic Cost of Immigration

As CNBC prepares to host the third Republican presidential debate on October 28 -- which will focus on the economy and is being billed as “Your Money, Your Vote” -- moderators Carl Quintanilla, Becky Quick, and John Harwood should be prepared to contest and correct several right-wing myths about the economic costs of immigration that are all but certain to come up.

MYTH: Deporting Longstanding Undocumented Immigrants Would Save Taxpayers Money

Breitbart News: "Every Deported Illegal Household Saves Taxpayers More Than $700,000." In an August 24 article that defended Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's controversial immigrant deportation plan, Breitbart's Julia Hahn claimed that “for every illegal migrant household that leaves the United States under Trump's plan, Americans would recoup nearly three-quarters of a million dollars,” citing a 2010 report by the Heritage Foundation's Robert Rector. Hahn also claimed that Trump's deportation plan “would help revive the near-bankrupt Social Security and Medicare programs” :

The lifetime savings accrued from one deported illegal household would provide funds for 125 low-income inner city students to receive the maximum Pell Grant award in 2015-2016 ($5,775); it could cover the cost of pre-kindergarten for 90 at-risk children (around $8,000 per child); or it could cover the one year cost of Medicaid for 124 enrollees ($5,790 based on FY2011 data).


Upon first hearing the costs illegal migrants impose upon U.S. taxpayers, many find the figure difficult to believe, says Heritage's Robert Rector:

“The debate about the fiscal consequences of unlawful and low-skill immigration is hampered by a number of misconceptions. Few lawmakers really understand the current size of government and the scope of redistribution... Unlawful immigrants, on average, are always tax consumers; they never once generate a 'fiscal surplus' that can be used to pay for government benefits elsewhere in society.”

Nations that are more serious about enforcing their immigration laws, however, are aware of the fiscal burdens mass migration places on its citizenry and have taken measures to combat economic strains. Israel, for example, has begun offering migrants $3,500 in cash and a one-way airplane ticket home in order to encourage repatriation. [Breitbart News, 8/24/15]

FACT: Deporting Longstanding Undocumented Immigrants Would Cost U.S. Billions, Reduce Economic Output

Center for American Progress: “To Deport 11.3 Million Unauthorized Immigrants Would Cost ... $114 Billion” But “Cost To The Economy Would Likely Be Far More.” An August 2015 study by the Center for American Progress found that the direct cost of deporting 11.3 million immigrants would be “an average of $10,070 per person, or $114 billion.” The report clarified that "[w]hile $114 billion represents a startling sum of money, it is only the direct cost of physically deporting unauthorized immigrants. The cost to the overall economy would likely be far more":

Based on previous analysis from the Center for American Progress, a mass deportation strategy would cost an average of $10,070 per person, for a total of $114 billion to remove 11.3 million people. 

This figure includes the high costs that would be required to find each and every unauthorized individual. Since two-thirds of the unauthorized population have been in the country for more than a decade, they are well-settled into our families, communities, and schools. Finding every single person without legal status would be a logistical nightmare that would cause significant social and emotional damage to entire communities. CAP's $114 billion estimate also includes the cost to detain these individuals while they wait for removal, to process them through the immigration courts, and to transport them abroad. 

While $114 billion represents a startling sum of money, it is only the direct cost of physically deporting unauthorized immigrants. The cost to the overall economy would likely be far more. The conservative American Action Forum, or AAF, has argued that it would take 20 years to accomplish a mass deportation program, with a full cost between $420 billion and $620 billion.This higher estimated cost includes both the direct costs of deportations and the hundreds of millions of dollars it would take for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, or DHS, to remove 11.3 million people, on top of its responsibilities for border and interior security, over 20 years. 

Beyond being prohibitively costly and morally unsustainable, removing so many individuals from the country--and from the labor force--would devastate the nation: The Bipartisan Policy Center calculates that deporting all unauthorized immigrants would shrink the labor force by 6.4 percent over two decades, which the AAF estimates would decrease U.S. gross domestic product, or GDP, by a full $1.6 trillion. [Center for the American Progress, 8/18/15]

Bloomberg: Experts Estimate That Mass Deportation Would Cost Billions Of Dollars To Implement. Bloomberg cited statistics provided to Congress in 2011 by Immigration and Customs Enforcement Deputy Director Kumar Kibble, as well as other immigration experts, to highlight the enormous expense associated with the mass deportation of undocumented immigrants:

In 2011, Immigration and Customs Enforcement deputy director Kumar Kibble told Congress it costs $12,500 to deport one person. Multiply that by 11 million and the cost comes to $137.5 billion.

A 2010 estimate by the liberal think tank Center for American Progress puts the cost of deporting all 11 million undocumented people at $200 billion over five years. The conservative pro-immigration group American Action Forum made a similar projection this year, placing the cost of a mass deportation program that also prevents future illegal immigration at $400 billion to $600 billion over a decade.

The Department of Homeland Security's budget in fiscal year 2014 was $60 billion, and it says it has the resources to deport 400,000 people per year. [Bloomberg, 8/17/15

Center For Global Trade Analysis Study: Deportation Of Undocumented Workers Would “Cause A Considerable Loss To The US Economy In Terms Of Real GDP.” A 2009 study by the Center for Global Trade Analysis at Purdue University that examined the effects on the U.S. economy of three different scenarios -- full deportation, full legalization, and full legalization with increased border control -- found that mass deportation of undocumented Mexican workers would “cause a considerable loss to the US economy in terms of real GDP.” Economists Angel Aguiar and Terrie Walmsley wrote:

The deportation of all undocumented Mexican workers causes a loss in real GDP of 0.61 percent. Legalization on the other hand, has a positive effect on real GDP regardless of border control. Although the extent to which the border remains porous, causes larger gains in real GDP, 0.53 percent as opposed to 0.17 percent in the border control scenario. [Research in Agricultural & Applied Economics, July 2009]

Center For American Progress: Mass Deportation Would Lead To “A Cumulative $2.6 Trillion In Lost GDP Over 10 Years.” A January 2010 study by the Center for American Progress found that mass deportation would reduce economic output by 1.46 percent per year, amounting to “a cumulative $2.6 trillion in lost GDP over 10 years” :

Center For American Progress, Mass Deportation Detrimental To GDP

[Center for American Progress, 1/1/10]

MYTH: Immigrants Cause High Unemployment, Low Wages Among Minority Workers

Fox's Tantaros: Immigration Reform “Would Hurt African-Americans Disproportionately And American Workers And A Lot Of Union Jobs.” On the November 13, 2014, edition of The O'Reilly Factor, Fox co-host Andrea Tantaros claimed that Obama's then-recently announced executive action plan to protect some immigrants from deportation and expand work permits would “hurt African-Americans disproportionately and American workers and a lot of union jobs” :

ANDREA TANTAROS: I want to bring up something. The other guest mentioned the American worker. This would hurt the American worker. And I say that --

BILL O'REILLY: That's theoretical. But there's evidence --

TANTAROS: It's not theoretical. It would drive down wages for the American worker.  

O'REILLY: They're already working, Andrea.


TANTAROS: We can't absorb any more in the health care system, in the school system. There was actually a poll published today -- a lot of these immigrants are, 44 percent, becoming dependent on Medicaid, as well.


TANTAROS: And this would hurt African-Americans disproportionately and American workers and a lot of union jobs. [Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor, 11/13/14]

Laura Ingraham: Immigration Action “Will Destroy Opportunities For Millions Of Black People Across This Country.” On the November 21, 2014, edition of her radio program, conservative radio host Laura Ingraham argued that Obama's executive action will undermine black Americans' job prospects:

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 Show, 11/21/14]

FACT: No Correlation Between Size Of Foreign-Born Population And African-American Unemployment Rate

Immigration Policy Center: “To The Extent That There Really Is A 'Black-Brown' Divide, It Is Rooted In Politics And Perception--Not Economics.” In a study examining hundreds of metropolitan areas to determine what effect immigration has on African-Americans in terms of wages and employment, the Immigration Policy Center (IPC) found that “for every 1% increase in a city's share of Latinos, African median and mean wages increase by 3%.” As the study explained, “Latino immigrants and African Americans fill complementary roles in the labor market -- they are not simply substitutes for one another,” and “cities which have suffered the effects of declining population are rejuvenated by an inflow of Latino immigrants.” The IPC concluded, “To the extent that there really is a ” black-brown" divide, it is rooted in politics and perception--not economics." From the study:

A comprehensive analysis of Census data from hundreds of U.S. metropolitan areas indicate that immigration from Latin America improves wages and job opportunities for African Americans. This analysis serves to dispel the common myth that African Americans are negatively impacted by the immigration of less-skilled workers from Mexico and elsewhere in Latin America. It is often assumed that Latino immigrants and African Americans are locked in ruinous competition for the same jobs, resulting in lower wages and higher unemployment rates for African Americans. In fact, Latino immigrants and African Americans fill complementary roles in the labor market--they are not simply substitutes for one another. In addition, cities which have suffered the effects of declining population are rejuvenated by an inflow of Latino immigrants who increase the labor force, tax base, consumer base, etc. To the extent that there really is a “black-brown” divide, it is rooted in politics and perception--not economics.


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

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. [Immigration Policy Center, 6/12/13]

MYTH: Immigration Depresses American Wages, Increases Unemployment

Fox's Tucker Carlson: “Allowing Millions More Low-Wage Workers To Work Legally In The United States Will Depress Wages For Working Americans.” During a November 14, 2014, appearance on America's Newsroom, Daily Caller Editor-in-Chief and Fox News co-host Tucker Carlson asserted that allowing more low-wage workers into the United States would “depress wages for working Americans.”

TUCKER CARLSON: The Democratic Party is no longer the party of working people. If it were, they wouldn't do this. Allowing millions more low-wage workers to work legally in the United States will depress wages for working Americans, period. Nobody disputes that. The president himself admitted that in his book. [Fox News, America's Newsroom, 11/14/14]

Fox & Friends: “Every Job Created Under Obama Could Go To An Illegal Alien.” 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 & Friends, 11/21/14]

Daily Caller Advances Wage Suppression Myth By Citing A CRS Report That Admits It Found No Causal Relationship Between Immigration And Wages. In an April 23 article, The Daily Caller advanced the myth that immigration suppresses wages, quoting Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's comments to The Blaze's Glenn Beck that, “In terms of legal immigration ... it is a fundamentally lost issue by many in elected positions today, is what is this doing for American workers looking for jobs, what is this doing to wages.” However, the Daily Caller article was based on a Congressional Research Service that contained the caveat, “It bears noting that a causal relationship between two variables - whereby change in one variable causes change in another variable in a systematic or consistent manner - cannot be determined through a simple graphic representation.” The Daily Caller additionally cited the discredited nativist group Center for Immigration Studies, to claim that “immigrants will account for 82 percent of population growth in the U.S. from 2010 through 2060.”
Daily Caller Cites CRS Report To Advance Wage Surpression Myth

[Daily Caller, 4/23/15]

FACT: Immigration Boosts American Wages And Is Not Connected To Unemployment

Immigration Policy Center: “There Is Little Apparent Relationship Between Recent Immigration And Unemployment Rates.” The Immigration Policy Center found that immigration has no apparent correlation with unemployment statistics:

  • If immigrants really “took” jobs away from large numbers of native-born workers, especially during economic hard times, then one would expect to find high unemployment rates in those parts of the country with large numbers of immigrants -- especially immigrants who have come to the United States recently and, presumably, are more willing to work for lower wages and under worse conditions than either long-term immigrants or native-born workers. Yet there is little apparent relationship between recent immigration and unemployment rates at the regional, state, or county level.
  • 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]

Economic Policy Institute: Immigration Has “Positive Impact On The Wages Of Native-Born Workers Overall.” A February 2010 study by the Economic Policy Institute found that immigration has a “positive impact on the wages of native-born workers overall: although new immigrant workers add to the labor supply, they also consume goods and services, which creates more jobs.” [Economic Policy Institute, 2/4/10]

Brookings Institution: “Immigrants Raise The Standard Of Living Of American Workers By Boosting Wages And Lowering Prices.” The Brookings Institution reported that “on average, immigrants raise the overall standard of living of American workers by boosting wages and lowering prices,” and that immigrants tend to “not compete for the same jobs” as U.S. workers:

The most recent academic research suggests that, on average, immigrants raise the overall standard of living of American workers by boosting wages and lowering prices. One reason is that immigrants and U.S.-born workers generally do not compete for the same jobs; instead many immigrants complement the work of U.S. employees and increase their productivity. For example, low-skill immigrant laborers allow U.S.-born farmers, contractors, or craftsmen to expand agricultural production or to build more homes -- thereby expanding employment possibilities and incomes for U.S. workers. [The Brookings Institution, 11/21/14]

MYTH: Flood Of Immigrant Children Straining American Schools and Taxpayers

Fox Business' Brenda Buttner Suggests Taxpayers Should Be Worried About Surge Of Immigrant Children In Schools. On the August 8, 2014, edition of Fox Business Network's Bulls and Bears, host Brenda Buttner suggested that parents should be concerned with “a surge of up to 60,000 illegal kids in their classrooms.”  [Fox Business, Bulls and Bears, 8/10/14]

Tucker Carlson: “But What About The Kids Who Are Born Here?” On the August 11, 2014, edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, guest Francisco Negrone pointed out that public schools have a legal obligation to educate “all children, including migrant or immigrant children, regardless of their legal status.” Co-host Tucker Carlson asked “about the rights of the kids who are born here, the American citizens who presumably have the right to a decent education and aren't getting one because of this” :

ELISABETH HASSELBECK: Well, school systems across the country are bracing for as many as 50,000 illegal immigrant children to flood their schools in just a matter of weeks. 


FRANCISCO NEGRONE: Well, the first thing to keep in mind is that public schools all across the country are keenly aware that they have a legal obligation to educate all children, including migrant or immigrant children, regardless of their legal status. But having said that, I think the new challenge for schools, now, has to do with the number of children that are coming over without parents or guardians. So it's this unaccompanied status that really is a concern for public schools. 

CARLSON: So you say that they have an obligation. It's the federal law, right, that they have to educate the kids who show up here illegally? But what about the rights of the kids who were born here, the American citizens who presumably have a right to a decent education and aren't getting one because of this? [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 8/11/14]

Breitbart News Fearmongers About Immigrants “Dragging Schools Down Academically.” In a November 26, 2014, article, Breitbart's Merrill Hope reported a Judicial Watch claim that “the longstanding and ever-increasing introduction of an immigrant population with so many assimilation hurdles 'contributed to an overall lowering of academic standards across the board.'” Hope connected this impact to “the importation of poverty and little education from the third into the first world” :

The conservative watchdog organization also underscored the alarming $12 billion annually shouldered by the American taxpayer for educating illegals aliens and their often anchor babies. The nation's tab jumped to $39 billion by 2013. 

Judicial Watch contended that the longstanding and ever-increasing introduction of an immigrant population with so many assimilation hurdles “contributed to an overall lowering of academic standards across the board.”  

They would come to that conclusion after taking a look at Texas public schools, which they did because of a huge jump in illegal immigrant Hispanic students “with dismal Mexican and Central American education histories.”


Illegal immigration has been the importation of poverty and little education from the third into the first world. All the mandated equity reform from the college and career readiness education industrial complex does not appear to be remedying the matter either.

A broken education system, illegal immigration and now amnesty -- it has been going on for a long time. Perhaps, this is why Judicial Watch called the situation a “public education crisis with no end in sight.” [Breitbart News, 11/26/14]

FACT: Unaccompanied Minors Account For “Just Over One-Tenth Of 1 Percent Of All Public School Children”

Center For American Progress: In 2013, Refugee Children Accounted For “Just Over One-Tenth of 1 Percent Of All Public School Children.” According to an August 2014 study by the Center for American Progress, if every unaccompanied child who crossed the border enrolled in the school system, the 50.1 million public school student population would only increase by 0.13 percent:Refugee Children In Public Schools, Center For American Progress

[Center for American Progress, 8/8/14]