Since the 2010 U.S. census, the number of naturalized citizens has increased substantially in Texas, and the state's immigrants account for significant purchasing power and economic output, according to an analysis by a Washington-based think tank urging immigration reform.
Immigrants make up more than 20 percent of the Texas workforce, and the state’s number of naturalized citizens increased by more than 68,000 in 2011 when compared with 2010, according to a compilation of immigration data by the Immigration Policy Center. The purchasing power of Hispanics and Asians in Texas — whether native born or immigrants — increased to $265 billion in 2012, an increase of $55 billion from 2010.
The study comes as the U.S. Senate is just weeks out from voting on the first comprehensive immigration-reform legislation to come before the chamber since 2007.
The policy center’s report also says that mass deportation in the state, which has an estimated 1.6 million undocumented immigrants, would cost billions of dollars.
“If all unauthorized immigrants were removed from Texas, the state would lose $69.3 billion in economic activity, $30.8 billion in gross state product, and approximately 403,174 jobs, even accounting for adequate market adjustment time,” the study says, citing analysis from the Texas-based Perryman Group.
But the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a nonpartisan group that advocates for increased border security and limited legal immigration, said the report doesn’t include the costs to provide undocumented immigrants with health care, education and other entitlements. The data is necessary to paint a clearer picture of how illegal immigration affects the state, said Ira Mehlman, a FAIR national spokesman.
All people, legal or otherwise, contribute to the economy when they make a purchase or pay rent and sales tax, Mehlman said. But he added that is only one part of the equation.
“The question is, does the economic contribution offset the cost of having you here? That’s No. 1,” he said. “And what impact does it have on other people’s ability to contribute economically to their maximum potential? That’s the reason we have immigration laws.”
The most recent state examination of the give-and-take in Texas was performed in 2006 by then-Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn. That analysis said that if Texas went without the estimated 1.4 million undocumented immigrants living in Texas in 2005, it would have resulted in a net loss of about $17.7 billion in gross domestic product that year.
Undocumented immigrants also produced more in-state revenue, $1.58 billion, than what they cost in state services, $1.16 billion, the 2006 report said. Local governments lost about $1.44 billion in health-care and law-enforcement costs that were not reimbursed by the state, however.
The office of current Comptroller Susan Combs, who announced this week that she would retire from public office when her term ends in 2015, has said there are no immediate plans to update the 2006 study.
The economic gains have been the focus of various pro-reform groups whose members include elected officials and business leaders. The American Action Forum recently sent a letter signed by more than 100 conservative economists to Congress urging reform and the Partnership for a New American Economy, whose members include New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro and El Paso Mayor John Cook, have spearheaded traditional and online campaigns urging elected officials to create a path to legal status or citizenship for the country’s estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants.
But FAIR’s Mehlman said groups that promote an overhaul and stress the need for a legitimate workforce fuel a battle between the “elite and the ordinary.”
“Illegal immigration amounts to a labor subsidy for them,” he said. “They get away with hiring people at low wages and ask everybody else to pick up the cost of education, health care all the things that they don’t supply.
The practice leads to depressing wages and making those jobs too low-paying to attract native workers.
“Many of the jobs would be done by native workers at higher wages, therefore paying more in taxes and contributing more in just general economic output and purchasing power,” he said.
The 68,000-person increase in the Texas’ naturalized citizen population means that demographic represents about 33 percent of the state’s immigrants. Naturalized citizens are also becoming more educated, with about 29 percent of the group earning at least a bachelor’s degree by 2011, compared with 15 percent of noncitizens.