An economy without immigrants

In protest of Trump’s administration immigration policies, last Thursday immigrants across the country refused to go to work, attend schools and/or shop as part of the Day Without Immigrants. The initiative spread on social media and included not only absence from places of work and education, but also street protests and several businesses shutting down in solidarity.

The economic and social impact of the action is not clear yet, but what would actually happen if there were no immigrants in the country? We can get an approximation looking at their economic contributions. The Partnership for New American Economy estimated that immigrants earned $1.3 trillion and contributed $105 billion in state and local taxes and almost $224 billion in federal taxes in 2014. Nearly $927 billion in spending power was used to purchase goods and services, stimulating local business activity and job creation.

According to the OECD’s Migration Policy Debates, immigrants accounted for 47% of the increase in the workforce in the United States over the past ten years. Additionally, immigrants are overwhelmingly represented in many low and high skill occupations. For Daniel Costa, Director of Immigration Law and Policy Research at the Economic Policy Institute, the impact of immigrants absence would be higher in determined occupations and industries, like construction, landscaping, finance, and IT.

According to the Institute for Immigration Research of George Mason University, foreign-born households managed an average income tax contribution of $3,476 per foreign-born household in 2012. Although this contribution might seem small compared to native-born households, the combined contribution of all immigrants households can be compared to the operating budget of the U.S Department of Homeland Security.

Moreover, the longer immigrants remain in the country, the higher their economic impact. The Institute for Immigration found that the increase in median income tax contribution of immigrants is directly related to their years of residence. Income tax contributions increase gradually with time, but when the period of residence exceeds 22 years contributions grow dramatically. After five years of residence, foreign-born households also start receiving some social assistance, but as they become more integrated these numbers fall.

Last Thursday people across the country got a taste of some the most important contributions that immigrants make to the U.S, including the provision of labor and services and participation in educational institutions. Hopefully, the Day Without Immigrants and similar initiatives can help increase awareness in the general population and the current administration.


Daniela Oliva

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