The pros and cons of illegal immigration are not obvious and that is because we can’t debate this in a vacuum! Illegal immigration has gone on since the beginning of immigration law. We can never scientifically know what it is like to have zero illegal immigrants because it is impossible to stop it entirely.
So what questions can we get reasonable answers to?
We can ask the following:
- What should the U.S. do with the millions of illegal immigrants already here?
- What should the U.S. do with immigration policy right now?
- What should the U.S. do with immigration policy long term?
So let’s get started!
What Should We Do With Illegal Immigrants Already Here?
The most reliable estimates say there are roughly 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States today. Given that this is a fact that we cannot deny, what should we do about it? The pros & cons lists below
Deporting Illegal Immigrants Pros & Cons
This means not deporting all illegal immigrants and giving them at least a path to citizenship.
Grace for Illegal Immigrants Pros
This avoids the extremely high cost of mass deportation.
Deportation of a single undocumented immigrant has been estimated by the Center for American Progress to be $10,070 per person. With 11.3 million undocumented immigrants that comes out to a cost of $113,791,000,000.
This avoids the risk of an economic crisis.
And there could be even more unexpected costs given we don’t really know what would happen if we tried to round up 11 million of our neighbors, take them from their homes, and send them to another country. Also, the loss of millions of workers suddenly could lead to an economic crisis which could spiral into another great depression.
This seems like the most moral view.
According to Pew Research center’s illegal immigration statistics, about 66% of undocumented immigrants have been here for more than 10 years.
These people are our neighbors, our friends, and our coworkers, and living here for 10+ years this is their home. It just doesn’t seem like the right thing to do to kick them from their homes, separate them from their families, and send them to a country that they many not even speak the language of (something that is especially a danger for people who came here as children). See our illegal immigration statistics infographic for more data.
This seems like the most Christian view.
This website is coming from a Christian perspective so we address this topic directly here. Jesus called us to love our neighbors as ourselves and to do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Since undocumented immigrants are our neighbors, and we wouldn’t to be deported ourselves, (and many other reasons) it seems the most Christian view to express grace to undocumented immigrants. Of course there are many who have objections so we discuss what Jesus and the bible say about immigrants in greater detail.
Grace for Illegal Immigrants Cons
Claim: Illegal immigrants take our jobs.
Response: There’s only so many jobs and if we have more people, there will be less of them, right? While this seems like common sense, people who study this for a living (economists) often completely disagree. Why?
Illegal Immigrants also create demand (they are consumers, spending money in the U.S. economy).
We need population growth to grow our economy and compete with countries like China. This is not happening at a fast enough rate among natives. They help us be competitive.
We don’t worry that population growth will hurt the economy because more people doesn’t mean less jobs. For example, economists note that millions of women and baby boomers entered the workforce but that didn’t make employment increase. Why? Because that’s not how the economy works. More workers often cause positive economic affects that leads to more jobs.
Claim: Illegal Immigrants Cost Billions of Dollars.
According to the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) illegal immigrants cost about $116 billion dollars. Note: it’s not $116 billion per year. That is $116 billion estimated over 75 years ($1.54 billion a year). This analysis can be found here.
It is important to note that the CIS appears to be a biased pro-Trump organization. This is not an unbiased economy study but a biased politically motivated one. However, they do appear to be highly funded and detailed so we will give them a detailed response here.
Response: This study is highly speculative. It assumes to calculate the cost of immigrants 75 years in the future.
The study seems to assume a nightmare scenario where government spending continues to increase at possibly unsustainable levels. The non-partizan Congressional Budget Office comes out with very different numbers for this reason.
This study openly discounts the effects of the children of undocumented immigrants. The children of undocumented immigrants by some noted experts, are thought to counterbalance any cost of their immigrant parents.
Not taking account of the children of illegal immigrants, the most economically beneficial part of undocumented immigrants, seems to lead to misleading calculations.
Gretchen Donehower, who was hired to help come up with the source data that the CIS relies on, estimates that when you include the effects of their children we could just as easily say that each undocumented immigrant gains the U.S. about $8,000.
Read more responses in this thoughtful piece about the cost of immigration here.
While there will be many more pros and cons asserted about illegal immigration, we tried to frame the question properly, and answer some of the most popular. We plan on continuing to update this list so feel free to add new pros and cons in the comments for us to address in the article.