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The economics of U.S. immigration policies

As we've noted in previous blog posts, there's no doubt that the United States' immigration policies are complicated and controversial. Increasingly, the issue has also become highly political with the majority of Republicans favoring anti-immigration policies and Democrats, less restrictive immigration policies.

While it's easy to become distracted by all of the political posturing and rhetoric, when discussing U.S. immigration, it's important to examine the issue from an economic standpoint. As of 2014, there were an estimated “11.3 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S." Increasingly, these immigrants are women and children who are fleeing the drug-related violence that is ravaging much of Central America.

While some politicians favor the mass deportation of undocumented immigrants, the repercussions and costs associated with these types of actions are significant. Both conservative and liberal political think tanks estimate that the costs of deporting the 11.3 million undocumented immigrants would total between $104 and $304 billion. Additionally, the U.S. would also lose out on the estimated $11.84 billion in annual tax contributions made by undocumented immigrants.

Currently, annually the U.S. spends approximately $5 billion each year to arrest, detain and deport an average of 403,563 undocumented immigrants. In contrast, the Bipartisan Policy Center estimates that a comprehensive reform of existing immigration policies would "reduce federal deficits by $1.2 trillion," and "spur economic growth by 4.8 percent," by the year 2035.

When examined, anti-immigration policies including mass deportation ultimately only serve to harm the U.S. economy. Despite this compelling evidence, the issue of U.S. immigration is likely to continue to be a divisive issue in the 2016 presidential election and for many more years to come.

Source: PBS.org, "America’s Immigration Battle By the Numbers," Sara Obeidat, Oct. 21, 2015

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