Almost every economics course begins with an introduction to the concept of opportunity cost. Put simply, an opportunity cost is an alternative that must be forgone in order to pursue a certain action. How many of us, though, actually calculate the opportunity costs of actions we see being taken every day? Recently I began to delve deeper into this question and started analyzing the opportunity costs associated with basically everything I saw around me. In particular I began to look into the costs of deportation, and just how much our economy is impacted by it.
I first looked into the economic benefits of deportation. After all, these illegal immigrants seem to be taking away jobs from US citizens who deserve them. Deporting them, therefore, seems to be a simple solution to help Americans retain their jobs. Deportation also seems to decrease the unemployment rate at first glance. However, upon further analysis, I quickly realized that the negative economic consequences of deportation far outweighed the benefits.
Undocumented workers comprise a large portion of the workforce; approximately 8 million undocumented workers make up 5 percent of the U.S. labor force. Without these workers overall production will decrease, leading to a drop in GDP. Many firms may be forced to shut down as they lose their undocumented, but valuable workers. As the firms close, many US citizens may lose their jobs as well. So, unemployment of US citizens actually seems to increase as deportations increase, and this damages the economy as a whole. In fact, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office states that an overhaul of the immigration system including legalization would boost GDP by $1.5 trillion over 10 years.
Furthermore, undocumented immigrants here in the U.S. also make up a significant share of the consumer base here in the. Hispanic and Asian immigrant consumers spend $1.9 trillion annually, comprising about 16% of the overall purchases in the country. Many of these customers are in fact illegal residents in the US. Deporting them will certainly reduce aggregate domestic demand and overall economic output.
So, why do these deportations continue? Should someone not have realized by now that deportation ends up hurting our economy far more than it helps? Well obviously not, since a congressional requirement requires immigration officers to detain 30,000 immigrants daily for potential deportation.
A simple analysis of deportations shows us that the opportunity cost of deportation is too great. Congress should pass legislative reforms and the detainment quota should be lifted, since it may lead to disastrous consequences for our recovering economy.
- Preston, Julia. “Amid Steady Deportation, Fear and Worry Multiply Among Immigrants”. New York Times. 12/22/13.
- Calvillo, Jorge. “Thousands of Latino Children Write Letters to the US Congress to Stop Deportations and Approve the Immigration Reform”. Latinos Post. 2/13/14.
- Pobjecky, A. Renee. “Deportation of All Illegal Immigrants Would Hurt U.S. Economy”. The Ledger. 1/16/14
- “Strength in Diversity: The Economic and Political Power of Immigrants, Latinos, and Asians”. Immigration Policy Center. 1/19/2013