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Immigration Reform 2013: Pathway to Citizenship May Feel Good, But It Will Harm the Economy

Immigration reform is undoubtedly necessary to the economic stability and national security of the United States. It is irrefutable that the nation must do a better job of preventing illegal immigration and that a path to legal immigration should be more reasonable. That said, the Gang of Eight’s proposed pathway to citizenship would have negative affects on the economy. Regardless of one’s philosophical arguments (and perhaps a pathway to citizenship is the most practical approach and one that the nation must swallow), the proposed plan will hurt American workers and strain American taxpayers.

Yes, if the roughly 11.1 million immigrants currently residing in the United States were to be acknowledged as legal workers, their wages would rise. And likewise, their previously discounted salaries would no longer deter employers from hiring U.S. citizens.

Many of these people who work for decreased wages, however, work in jobs with little government oversight. With legal status, these workers would flood the non-black-market economy and compete for jobs upon which many American families depend and, as is exhibited by April’s lackluster jobs report, of which there are still too few.

The greater the availability of labor, especially legal labor, the less valuable an individual worker is to his or her employer. Even if this decreased value is not reflected in wages or benefits, it will be reflected in unemployment numbers.

And yes, if the roughly 11.1 million immigrants currently residing in the United States were to be acknowledged as legal workers, they would contribute to tax revenue — as they ought to. Yet the benefits of this increased tax revenue would be outweighed by the deficits accumulated because of increased government subsides. Illegal immigrants would no longer enjoy such publicly funded resources as infrastructure or public schools without contributing to taxes, but their estimated taxes would not cover government entitlements, not to mention Medicare and Social Security benefits. 

The Heritage Foundation estimates that over the course of the next 50 years, the revenue-to-spending deficit resulting from a pathway to citizenship would be roughly $6.3 trillion.

America is indeed a nation of immigrants and is a nation that does — and ought to — appreciate the contributions that immigrants make everyday. America’s tradition of immigration also serves as a reminder of the nation’s blessings and promises. Subsequently, the government should honor the undeniable importance of its immigrants in its policies and should embrace people who wish to join the nation in hope of a better life. But the government should not incentivize illegal activity and it should not allow idealism to trump practicality, at least not immediately and totally.  

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