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Costs And Benefits Of Illegal Immigration Are Unequally Distributed

Audio

Aired 7/23/10

The immigration issue sparks strong views. That’s because powerful interest groups have much at stake in either changing things or keeping things as they are. As part of our Envision series "Crossing the Line - Border Stories," we look at the winners and losers under the current system.

California remained the leading state of residence of the unauthorized immigrant population in 2009, with 2.6 million. The next leading state, Texas, had 1.7 million unauthorized residents, followed by Florida with 720,000, New York with 550,000, and Illinois with 540,000. (Source: U.S. Department of Homeland Security)
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Above: California remained the leading state of residence of the unauthorized immigrant population in 2009, with 2.6 million. The next leading state, Texas, had 1.7 million unauthorized residents, followed by Florida with 720,000, New York with 550,000, and Illinois with 540,000. (Source: U.S. Department of Homeland Security)

The immigration issue sparks strong views. That’s because powerful interest groups have much at stake in either changing things or keeping things as they are. As part of our Envision series "Crossing the Line - Border Stories," we look at the winners and losers under the current system.

An estimated 200,000 illegal immigrants are working in San Diego County. They bring both benefits and costs. UCSD economics professor Gordon Hanson says the problem is those benefits and costs are not evenly distributed.

“Those benefits go primarily to one group of individuals,” he said, “and that is employers in industries that hire illegal immigrants intensively: construction, agriculture, hospitality and tourism.”

Agriculture is a $5 billion a year industry in San Diego.

Special Feature Crossing The Line: Border Stories

Envision San Diego takes a closer look at illegal immigration, exploring why migrants take big risks to work in the U.S., what happens to the children of deported parents, and how this region benefits from -- and pays a price for -- its unauthorized migrant labor pool.

Erik Larson of the San Diego Farm Bureau says that, because land is so expensive, farmers have to grow crops with a high return on investment, and those crops are also labor intensive. He says that without immigrant labor most farms in San Diego would disappear.

“The avocado trees that blanket the hills of Fallbrook and Valley Center, those all go away without farm workers. So do the oranges here in San Pasqual Valley, the nurseries of San Marcos and Vista, the Carlsbad flower fields,” said Larson.

Larson says San Diego consumers benefit from an abundance of fresh local produce, and the 300,000 acres of open space provided by large tracks of farm land that might otherwise be gobbled up by housing developments.

Construction and tourism also benefit from cheap immigrant labor. Tourism is central to San Diego’s economy, and many of the people changing the sheets and washing the dishes in hotels and restaurants are illegal immigrants. Their low wages increase employers’ profits and lower consumers’ costs.

Hanson says the workers who compete with immigrants for jobs are some of the losers in the equation.

“That’s a minority of workers in San Diego County,” Hanson said. “The workers who face the most competition from illegal immigrants would be U.S. workers who haven’t completed high school. That’s less than 10 percent of the total labor force.”

San Diego congressman Brian Bilbray says the problem is that 10 percent doesn’t have much political clout.

“If illegals were coming in and taking the professors’ jobs and the lawyers’ jobs,” Bilbray said, “there would be a lot more outcry in Washington and Sacramento about doing something about it.”

But Bilbray says the biggest losers are taxpayers, because they foot the bill for health and education services for illegal immigrants.

“The fact is, there are a few who are making money off this,” he said, “and they’re expecting the general population to carry this. You’ve got to stop that. The trouble is the very wealthy and the very powerful are the ones who are making the most out of this, who are making the most profit out of this.”

The very wealthy also benefit from cheap labor to maintain their mansions and manicure their estates. UCSD professor Gordon Hanson estimates their cost savings from using illegal immigrant labor more than balances the extra taxes they pay for services for immigrant families.

“Compare that wealthy family with an upper middle class family. They’re in a higher income tax bracket, but your income doesn’t make it possible for you to pay for all the homecare, childcare, yardcare services that that wealthy family is getting. That family, they might be net losers,” said Hanson.

Illegal immigrants pay taxes, too. In the backyard of a modest home in Vista, a man who has raised a family and worked illegally in California for 20 years lays out his tax returns and an identification card assigned to him by the federal government.

“This is the actual document the IRS sent me,” he said, “and through this number I’ve been doing my tax reports every year since 1993.”

He leafs through the documents and produces about 15 years worth of tax returns.

“I would be more than willing to prove that I’ve been paying taxes like everybody else,” he said.

The tax ID card allows employers to deduct taxes from payroll checks. Hanson estimates the federal government collects between $40 and $50 billion a year from these taxes, but this worker will never see any tax credits or social security, because he’s not a U.S. citizen.

“No matter how long I’ve been here,” he said, “no matter how much taxes I’ve been paying, there is no law that says, OK, you could be legal. We have people that are against us, and I don’t blame them - they have their own point of view - they see things their own way. All I ask is respect my own point of view. And the people that handle the law, all I ask is that for them to be fair.”

Congressman Bilbray is adamantly against any reform that includes a path to amnesty.

“If you’re here legally, you have rights and you’ll have a better life,” Bilbray said, “and if you are here illegally, you‘re going to need to go home.”

Professor Hanson takes a different view of immigration reform.

“There’s a built-in inequity in the system,” he said. “We’ve got to do a better job of spreading the benefits of immigration around than we do currently.”

Until there is a better understanding of who’s getting those benefits and who’s paying those costs, it will be difficult to get enough support to craft solutions.

Comments

Avatar for user 'stevo'

stevo | July 23, 2010 at 9 a.m. ― 4 years, 2 months ago

What is the argument here? every single alien "BROKE THE LAW!" Our Government, has allowed the invasion of 20 to 30 million criminals which is the largest invasion of any Nation, at any time, in direct violation of Article IV, Section IV of our Constitution. They allow the invasion, they force American tax payers to pay Billions of dollars to provide Welfare, Prison cells, Educate the invaders children, free medical care, the invaders break numerous laws,massive document fraud, & are destroying our schools, hospitals, communities, culture & standard of living while Robbing, Raping, Killing & Assaulting American Citizens WAKE UP PEOPLE!


http://immigrationcounters.com/
http://www.ojjpac.org/memorial.asp
http://www.immigrationshumancost.org/
http://www.newswithviews.com/Wooldridge/frosty580.htm

Every single Non-representing representative, up to and including obama and holder need to be IMPEACHED! for not upholding the oath of office that they swore to uphold and defend the Constitution! If these clowns were to do their job, this would all be a Moot point!

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Avatar for user 'aldol'

aldol | July 23, 2010 at 1:04 p.m. ― 4 years, 2 months ago

Can anyone explain why, with over 20 million Americans out of work or underemployed, and with about 20 million illegal immigrants in the US, we do not hear an outrage from Journalists, Activist groups, Congressmen, Unions, requiring that the illegals be sent home?
After all criminalizing the employers who hire illegals would be the easiest and most humane thing to do. this would have the following effects, most likely:
1. let the illegals go home on their own schedule
2. open up 20 million jobs to unemployed Americans
3 increase wages to levels which would allow the American working men and women to make a barely decent living.
4. reduce the deficit as 20 million illegals are likely to cost 200 billion or more
on top of all the other advantages of crime reduction, education and health care crowding etc.

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Avatar for user 'Mikesta'

Mikesta | July 23, 2010 at 1:19 p.m. ― 4 years, 2 months ago

Alison St John is full of it !! Her information is made up or flawed. I cannot speak for the agricultural work force but I have worked in the hospitality industry in San Diego for over a decade. We do not hire illegal immigrants. The workers are documented. Additionally in the summer tourist season the work force is largely local students.

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Avatar for user 'MiLindo'

MiLindo | July 24, 2010 at 2:51 a.m. ― 4 years, 2 months ago

I can't believe we have to listen to Councilman Barrera a Mexican, once again tell us how much we benefit from illegals. Their pomposity alone more than grates on most Legal Americans nerves. The illegal in this article pays property taxes, yet he lives here on the lamb. Tonight I listened as you gave out numbers, which quickly added up to at least $100,000,000 (approx) as Barrera smiled into the camera and told us how it was worth it to the country. The numbers predigiously biased and low-balled. The other gentleman (lying through his teeth) verified that it was good to have illegals because they weren't old. Well, guess what, half of the elderly in Tijuana have been collecting SS checks from us since 1963 that I know of, and locals said it has been going on longer than that. Barrera grins into the camera and Gloria Penner smiles back. The fleecing of America right on KPBS, and you condone it, for what, political correctness? You even weighed the advantages of paying for illegals as opposed to border patrol? The sum for the costs of these millions of children, of which you claim are only 2,000,000, again low balled, doesn't count for the care of the pregnant mother who has 6 children at a pop because she gets paid for being pregnant then gets money for each child, a nice nest egg to fill in for her husbands under the table job.

I'm sure the documentary you will be showing will give the tired old sob story and hardships of Mexicos indigent followed by how they are good for our country. If you can't tell the truth, and want to give away America to Mexico, you just keep showing this propaganda, but I for one will never support your station. With all your nicy- nice Mexican biases documentaries that are supposed to make us more informed, thus more intelligent, you are selling our out country. Illegal is illegal, they are criminals, they should be profiled just as any other criminal. If there is a criminal with blond hair and a tatoo, that person is profiled. If there is a bank robber who is white, 6'2" tall, he is profiled, so it should be alright to profile and deport all the illegals San Diego harbors. You Gloria Penner, are helping them, should you be jailed?

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Avatar for user 'MiLindo'

MiLindo | July 24, 2010 at 3:27 a.m. ― 4 years, 2 months ago

By the way, can you imagine 20 years of taxes not being paid by one person? Multiply that by 30,000,000 and you wonder why Mexico is so quickly becoming a world power, and runs in the black, while we're in the red. San Diego is pegged as a sanctuary city. At first because the locals loved hob nobbing with the Mexican Wealthy, now Mexicans are our politicians, and the San Diego elite loves them even more. The smell of power, money and greed is selling out our City, State and Country to Mexico. Wonder if it will fell as good when they take over, their goal set to "get even". The Mexican young think they own Texas and Arizona right now, and smirch into our faces that in 10 years they will own America. Is that what KBPS and San Diego plans?

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Avatar for user 'SU'

SU | November 15, 2012 at 1:08 a.m. ― 1 year, 10 months ago

wow you people have to be some of the most ignorant people in America. Your ideals are bias because you do not know the reasoning behind their actions. Technically yes they have broken the law, but just about everyone has. If you have ever been in a car without your seatbelt then i guess that makes you a criminal too so you should choose your words carefully before you use them in a hypocritical manner. But psychologically they made a moral decision to have a better life for their children. In my opinion that is that is every human being's right. Be thankful that you were blessed to be born in a country where you are free to become whatever you desire, instead of a place where you can be shot dead in an instant. I'm only 18 and i have a better understanding morally and in a sense that's better for the economy. There are jobs everywhere, maybe not ones with great pay and they may seem degrading, but guess what, these criminals will do whatever it take to survive. So next time think before you talk and make an idiot out of yourself. And incase you forgot, this country is based on immigration, think about where you would be if your ancestors hadn't come here. Im sure they didn't work so hard to succeed just so you can be snotty and deny others the right of eventually having our rights.

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | November 15, 2012 at 10:02 a.m. ― 1 year, 10 months ago

RAND Study Shows Relatively Little Public Money Spent Providing ...www.rand.org › News and Events › News Releases › 2006Cached
You +1'd this publicly. Undo
Nov 14, 2006 – Just a small fraction of America's health care spending is used to ... undocumented immigrants, according to a RAND Corporation study issued today. Overall, immigrants to the United States use relatively few health services,

There are a number of studies such as the above and others by economist James Smith, sociologist Douglas Massey and even the US Chamber of Commerce has its own. All of them demolish the Nativist baseless xenophobic myths that are badied about.

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | November 15, 2012 at 10:06 a.m. ― 1 year, 10 months ago

When it comes to race,ethnicity and demographics, all of a sudden, free enterprise goes out the door and into the trash for the racists and the Nativists.

Right? At least be honest with yourselves and admit it.

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | November 15, 2012 at 10:10 a.m. ― 1 year, 10 months ago

“That’s a minority of workers in San Diego County,” Hanson said. “The workers who face the most competition from illegal immigrants would be U.S. workers who haven’t completed high school. That’s less than 10 percent of the total labor force.”

The professor is absolutely right. This has been previously stated by other academicians such as labor economist David Card. But all falls on the deaf ears of the prejudiced who have already made up their mind.

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | November 15, 2012 at 10:22 a.m. ― 1 year, 10 months ago

Evo, did you bother to read the article? Or just busy ranting?

But it is fitting you should upload a You Tube satire about immigration with a guy in a 1776 wig. Afterall, Ben Franklin despised the German immigrants of his day. Even referring to them as "swarthy." Old Ben must've been one pink guy!

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | November 15, 2012 at 10:25 a.m. ― 1 year, 10 months ago

MiLinda, err, not quite. Mexico doesn't quite have the tax system that the USA has. Many people do not pay taxes, either out of negliegence, irresponsibility or whatever. It's NOT like in the US where the IRS sooner or later catches up to you!

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Avatar for user 'benz72'

benz72 | November 16, 2012 at 7:24 a.m. ― 1 year, 10 months ago

SU, MA, There are legal ways to enter, live in, work in and become a citizen of the US. My wife is part way through that process right now. I have no sympathy for people who cut to the front of the line or ignore the process entirely because they can't be bothered to abide by the rules.

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | November 16, 2012 at 11:51 a.m. ― 1 year, 10 months ago

MILINDA. "concilman Barrera, a Mexican."

You mean, he's not a US citizen. Until you post proof, it's only diarrhea of the mouth on your part.

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | November 16, 2012 at 11:55 a.m. ― 1 year, 10 months ago

Yeah, BENZ, SHE HAS A SPONSOR!!!

Duhhhhhh!

If your wife is going "through the process," it's because of her married status to you. It is NOT in order to do stoop labor. You think some rural guys coming for seasonal work are going to have a sponsor???

Please, let's try to be a little less disengenous. Whether it's feigned on your part or not.

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Avatar for user 'benz72'

benz72 | November 16, 2012 at 2:43 p.m. ― 1 year, 10 months ago

I'm not being disingenuous at all. The statement is true. There are legal means to apply for entry, residency and citizenship.
Note: I am not claiming that they are easy, or ubiquitous, only that they exist. There is a legal path which some are choosing to ignore.

Please let me know if you find this to be inaccurate for some reason.

I don't think it is our national responsibility to provide anyone with naturalized citizenship. It is a privilege we may choose to extend to some number of persons who show themselves to be worthy of it.

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | November 16, 2012 at 9:07 p.m. ― 1 year, 10 months ago

A 20,000 a year cap for Mexico, not including immediate family. That is sorely inadequate and needs to be revised.

Be aware too, that a high percentage do not intend to look for permanent residency. This is a myth perpetrated not only by the Nativists but also by those who demonstrate some sympathy for their plight. Studies from as far back as the late 70s by Wayne Cornelius (then with MIT) has demonstrated that many clandestine border crossers have no intention of staying and return home once they have earned and saved a certain amount of money. They intend to return to their hometowns to build their houses or start small businesses. In fact, in fact, in southern Mexico they have a name for these men who como and go from their hometowns. The infamous proposed wall, as Princeton's Douglas Massey wrote, would have prevented or made it more difficult for them to return.

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Avatar for user 'benz72'

benz72 | November 19, 2012 at 9:48 a.m. ― 1 year, 10 months ago

1) We are certainly not going to refuse to let a Mexican national return to Mexico. Have you seen a wall proposed for that purpose? All the ones I have seen are intended to prevent illicit travel in the other direction.

2) If you want to discuss the number, make a suggestion. What is the right number? How many additional immigrants is it in our best interest to admit? We can find a reasonable number, but the implied response of ignoring the process instead of adjusting it seems unacceptable.

3) Their ultimate goal is not central to the discussion of illegal immigration. I merely brought up naturalization to point out that we do have a system in place to accommodate immigrants, though obviously not for as many as would seek to enter. On that issue, I would point out that it is not our responsibility to accommodate everyone who wants to come. If an immigration is good for us AND good for them, then I welcome them. If it is good for them and not for us... they should find someplace else to go or make their country of origin better.

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