Study: Legalizing Arizona's undocumented workers would be economic boon

September 10, 2012

A recent report from a left-leaning think tank looks at the potential impact on Arizona’s economy of legalizing or deporting undocumented workers. 

As of 2010, there were an estimated 211,000 undocumented immigrants working in Arizona. The Center for American Progress report looks at what would happen if every undocumented worker were granted legal status versus if every one of them were deported.

They found legalization would lead to an extra half billion dollars in tax revenue. Conversely, CAP says 100 percent deportation would mean a $2.4 billion hit to tax revenue and a $13.3 billion dollar decrease in gross state product.

Marshall Fitz, the Center’s Director of Immigration Policy, said Arizona’s economy would be hurt by a mass deportation of unauthorized workers. “Their consumption, their purchase of cars, the rent that they were paying, their purchase of groceries – all of their economic activity is extracted from the state’s economy,"  Fitz said. "When you have that diminished demand, you also start to lose other jobs.”

But Steve Camarota, Director of Research for the conservative Center for Immigration Studies, says Arizona's unemployed, low-income legal residents are already losing jobs to undocumented workers.

"That report is assuming none of these people can benefit by the departure of the illegals, even though what we know about these less-educated folks who aren't working is they mostly work in things like food service, and building cleaning and maintenance, and construction, exactly where the illegals work," Camarota said. "So the departure of the illegals could have a very nice impact on the poorest segment of Arizona's population."

Updated 9-10-12 1:38 p.m.