PPIC sees little economic impact from legalizing immigrants

Against that background, the Public Policy Institute of California has issued a study concluding that legalization would have very little economic impact, despite widespread belief that it would.

“Our research suggests … that legalizing most currently unauthorized immigrants would not lead to dramatic changes in the labor market, either for unauthorized immigrants or for native workers,” the PPIC report concludes, “We also find little evidence to support the view that such a step would have significant effects on the broader economy, particularly on tax revenues or public assistance programs.”

With illegal immigrants constituting about 10 percent of California’s workforce, jobs skills are a more important factor in their economic progression than their immigration status, PPIC says. And it’s also not likely that legalization would have a major impact, positive or negative, on local and state government finances, it says.

The full report, which advocates that California begin planning for legalization, is available here.

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43 Responses to “PPIC sees little economic impact from legalizing immigrants”


  1. 1 Amanda Herrera April 7, 2010 at 3:36 PM

    I am a little confused after reading this article. I am unsure what comes from knowing that there is little economic impact for legalizing immigrants. Does this mean that the PPIC is encouraging California to legals more immigrants or make the process easier to become an legal US citizen or whether they are simply making this claim so that it shows that the main purpose California’s economy in particular is suffering because of illegal immigrants in the state.If it is to advocate more of legalizing immigrants then I believe in giving people better chances of a better life.As long as it would not hinder our economy more i do not see the wrong in legalizing immigrants.

  2. 2 Tyler Oga April 9, 2010 at 5:16 PM

    This makes sense. For one, it’s not like there is a significant majority of illegal workers to begin with. Second, how much further could their skills take them job-wise, if they were free to work anywhere? I don’t imagine that any illegal immigrants were hoping to gain citizenship in order to become doctors or engineers. You would probably just have a larger rush of immigrants looking for jobs in the field, constructions, etc. So yes, i can see why it wouldn’t have much of an impact.

  3. 3 Christopher Henderson April 12, 2010 at 7:43 AM

    I agree with Tyler, it makes sense that legalizing the illegal immigrants would not make much difference. If it made a differance at all, I feel it would increase our unemployment rate because that would be more people looking for work. Tyler made a good point that many illegal immigrants are working for free or for very small wages (well below the minimum) because they are illegal and can’t really protest. If they were suddenly able to compete for higher wages, that would just add to unemployment and make it more difficult to find a job. I also agree with Amanda, I have no problem with legalization as long as it doesn’t hinder our economy or my wellbeing.

  4. 4 Jesus Zavala April 13, 2010 at 7:39 AM

    I agree that legalizing most currently unauthorized
    immigrants would not lead to dramatic changes in the labor market. Although this might help their immigration status, it does not guarantee them that they will find better jobs. If you take into consideraiton the unemployment of current illegal immigrants, it would increase the country’s unemployment rate if they were legalized.

  5. 5 Ruby S. April 13, 2010 at 8:36 AM

    I would think that legalixing immigrants would have an impact on the wages they demand. Many illegal immigrants are working ‘under the table’ and aren’t getting paid as much as they could if they were citizens. I don’t think that it would increase unemployment unless a huge rush of immigrants came to live in the U.S. because %10 of the country is already made up of immigrants and they’re working whether they’re legal or not. It would be interesting to see what would happen if they did make legalization easier to attain.

  6. 6 mike April 14, 2010 at 10:20 AM

    Ruby makes a good point. Legalization might not make much difference in the status of the “currently unauthorized immigrants”, but what if legalization is easier to attain? Would that push our unemployment over the brink and demands made on the states infrastructure? What would this do to unemployment wages and benefits? Also most immigrants send all their money to their homeland and move back after a certain time period. I think this will have an impact wages and the labor market, where there is already a problem. This might make a larger one.

  7. 7 Jennifer DaRosa April 14, 2010 at 2:20 PM

    I agree that legalizing immigrants would not make much ofan impact. They still would not have skills needed to attain much better jobs than they already have or they may not want to try and just stay with the job they have. I also agree with Ruby in that these immigrants are working for less than they should be earning. If they were to become legal than they could make demands to try and icrease wages or working conditions and this could impact the economy.

  8. 8 Kaleen Scott April 17, 2010 at 10:22 AM

    I think legalizing immigrants would definitely increase our unemployment rate. People who are educated with a strong background can’t even find jobs lets alone immigrants who have just come over to california trying to find what they consider a well paying job.

  9. 9 Ryan Moura April 17, 2010 at 1:15 PM

    I feel that legalizing immigrants would cause a number of problems instead of solutions for this country. People are having such a tough time with all the cuts already and immigrants would only add to that problem when it comes time to get a job. Well educated people are struggling with the changes that this country had been forced to make, and immigrants will only make that more difficult for them to do.

  10. 10 Lorena Rodegeb April 18, 2010 at 2:14 PM

    I think that legalizing immigrants is a good idea. I think that those who are in the country illegally, and working “under the table” would not only be able to work legally, but also join the rest of us and paying in on taxes. I don’t know if the unemployment rate currently includes those who are working in this counrty illegally so maybe it would reflect a more accurate rate if immigrants were to become legalized.

  11. 11 Anthony Azevedo April 19, 2010 at 10:06 PM

    The only problem with legalizing immigrants, is that their not going to want to do the same jobs they have been doing for years. Meaning they would not want to work in fields anymore. Even more immigrants are going to flood the boarder, once they hear the USA is legalizing immigrants. The American Dream!

  12. 12 Kelsea Jimenez April 20, 2010 at 2:04 PM

    Making the process of becoming a legal citizen more easier is a very good idea. It takes years and years and tons of money to become a citizen and on top of that you must find someone who is a citizen to sponser you for years. Legalizing illegal immigrants won’t make a huge impact on our high unemployment rate because most of them already have low wage jobs and don’t live here year round which means they would only be in America when their jobs are available for work. So it doesn’t make sense when people say our unemployment rate will rise if we legalize immigrants. Plus the process takes so damn long to become a citizen that I’m sure most illegal immigrants, now, will not even be able to receive their citizenship for another 5-10 years and our recession period will probably be recovering from then. So illegal immigrants should have the opportunity to have an easier process to becoming legal citizens.

  13. 13 Lacey Olson April 21, 2010 at 10:53 AM

    I think that legalizing would increase unemployment and also, like someone mentioned, it would give them reason to ask for higher wages now that they are “legal” and have a right to work here. I don’t think that it would be fair to the true citizens who are already having a hard enough time as it is finding jobs at a decent rate. Totally against this.

  14. 14 Ryan Haley April 21, 2010 at 9:17 PM

    Harvest season in Napa is full of illegal immigrants looking for work. They come here during the months that work is needed make money and leave. But they become illegal immigrants when they stay past the allotted time they are allowed. Many do stay and have fake identification so that they can go on pay roles and such things. We do owe a lot of our town to illegal immigrants whether people want to admit it or not. At Home Depot many illegal immigrants stand around waiting for someone to give them work. I read in the Register once in the opinion part that people were intimidated to go to home depot because of this occurrence. For me the change that people think that legalizing immigrants would bring is a false front for their fear. Fear of change, fear of the unknown. When people that study the economics figure out the results of a possible legalization and they are good, people will ignore it just as the oil companies and the electric cars, and the medical companies and progress in medicine. If the numbers were bad they would put neon lights around the issue. It is pretty much all based on fear of the unknown however as a nation, we have gone through this issue before with Cuban Americans and Irish Americans etc.

  15. 15 EconConsumer April 24, 2010 at 6:12 AM

    Legalizing immigrants can make impact on our public assistance programs. On the other hand, most immigrants dreams are to own their own home, and not live on public assistance. I agree we need to set a time limit on public assistance. Everyone needs a little help once in awhile. I support those programs as a stepping stone to those who are willing to help themselves and give back to the community.

    Its interesting that by the hard work of many immigrants that the wealthy are getting richer by paying many undocumented immigrants below stardard wages.

    Wealthy vineyard workers know that many of their workers are illegal. They look the other way when work is been done for the them. The vineyard owners prosper but when the workers need a little extra help, they complain they have to support them through public assistance.

  16. 16 Angelina Hlavaty April 27, 2010 at 9:20 PM

    I believe it is true whether you give a true identity or citizenship to a person may or may not change the jobs they may be acquiring. Many do the jobs that we would never consider doing. They are a large support to our economy. Yet, how would they afford to pay taxes like the rest of us. Better yet, if they all were legalized, would this help or hurt our economy. That means that government would have the power to raise more taxes since there is more people in the system raising up our economy. Yuck, even more taxes i think not. I believe they are in some ways a concern, yet not a priority like the government focalizes it to be.

  17. 17 kathryn koller April 30, 2010 at 11:38 PM

    I’m not sure what legalizing immigrants could do. I could see the unemployment rates going up because they are now part of the tally…and also they are going to have to start claiming their money and pay for taxes which is going to put an end of the under the table payments. and that might also result in an idea that several others mentioned and that’s now legals wanting hirer wages. I don’t know..just because we make all the illegals legal now it won’t stop immigrants from coming in and staying illegal…this is a situation that needs to be fixed elsewhere before we start handing out citizenships

  18. 18 Karla Martinez May 1, 2010 at 12:48 PM

    Although it may not be a great impact, I think one area where the government could benefit from legalizing immigrants would be in the hopes that these newly legalized people may someday acquire property. This would increase the revenue since illegal immigrants are not able to purchase property, and are limited to renting homes, which does not benefit the government. I don’t think that legalizing immigrants would create more unemployment since the people working illegally now don’t usually compete for the same jobs as legal residents or citizens.

  19. 19 Evan Schlinkert May 2, 2010 at 1:49 PM

    It makes sense to me that if we were to legalize most currently unauthorized immigrants there wouldn’t be a great change in the labor market. To me it seems thought that the illegal immigrants in the country are working under the table as Ruby said, and if we were to make their status legal, then it might actually improve our economy in the sense that their wages are “in the books.” To me it is a matter of improvement, not a matter of who is allowed in our country or not, the immigrants are already here so let’s let them help us.

  20. 20 angel May 2, 2010 at 7:39 PM

    I don’t think legalizing immigrants will considerably increase unemployment rate as mentioned in some comments above. Illegal immigrants are still working anyways and getting money under the table, money that will not be taxable because there are no records of it. I think the country should first make sure their borders are controlled and then consider an immigrant reform.
    I don’t have a problem on competing for a job with an immigrant who just legalized. Jobs are taken by the most qualified person and this are based of education, work experience and skills set.

  21. 21 David Colin Sorenson May 3, 2010 at 9:51 AM

    I think this problem is a double-edged sword. On one side I think that it does increase the unemployment rate because they are taking jobs from citizens. If citizens held those jobs i think that would make more of an impact than if illegal immigrants did. But, on the other side, they are human and have human rights. They are just looking for a better life and to support themselves or their family. With the economy in mind, I think that the former statement is the way to go.

  22. 22 Kara Yamamoto May 3, 2010 at 10:15 AM

    I don’t really think that legalizing the illegal immigrant would make much of a difference. If it made a differance at all, I feel it would increase our unemployment rate because that would be more people looking for work. We talked about immigration in my english class a few weeks ago, and a lot of companies would rather heir an illegal immigrant and pay them under the table. They don’t have to give them the same rights as we have because they aren’t citizen, but it makes it harder for us to find jobs. It could be a good thing because they do all the jobs we don’t necessarily want but it would still make it hard for us to find work.I have no problem with legalization as long as it doesn’t hinder our economy or my wellbeing.

  23. 23 Charles McNeil May 4, 2010 at 2:23 AM

    It doesn’t really surprise me much that just simply legalizing illegal immigrants wouldn’t render much of a change in California’s economy. Isn’t it just like slapping a label on something? Just because you take a jar of peanut butter and slap a label on it that says “pop tarts,” doesn’t mean you’ve somehow magically changed the molecular structure of Jif into that toaster-ific breakfast treat. What the immigrant workers want, and what the employers of the immigrants want isn’t changed. The illegals are still going to fill that cheap labor hole. The problems are still the same.

  24. 24 Melissa Moylan May 7, 2010 at 8:53 AM

    Making illegal immigrants legal citizens would make a difference in the economy because they would have to pay taxes. Right now illegal immigrants are hired and payed in cash. If all illegal immigrants had to become citizens they would still be doing the same kind of work except they would be getting paid more and have to pay taxes like the rest of America.

  25. 25 nicholas joy May 9, 2010 at 4:41 PM

    I feel like the small wages and relatively few services that immigrant workers receive would not make a big splash on the economy. And people love to complain about the immigrant labor force but truth of matter is that without them jobs would cost people even more to have done. Legalizing all immigrants is a big step and one that is not feasible, but a citizen application process that is less expensive and doesnt take months to complete is a smaller step that will help achieve the same goal. If they did make it easier to become a citizen then they could bitch all they want about immigrant workers. But while we only give these people one option we can then in turn not take that one option away from them.

  26. 26 Nick Baumann May 12, 2010 at 10:21 AM

    I find it hard to believe that naturalizing illegal immigrants would have that small an economic impact. As horrible as it sounds, it’s cheap to use illegal labor. If employers suddenly had to pay their illegal employees as they would pay legal ones, with minimum wage and benefits, the costs of labor would spike and the costs of goods will rise with it. In addition, the state would need to set up new offices where the people could come in and be registered as citizens; more buildings plus more employees plus more paperwork equals more money to spend. I am not completely against naturalizing some illegal immigrants, I just don’t appreciate it when advocacy groups try and hide the true impact it will have.

  27. 27 Joey V May 14, 2010 at 11:35 AM

    I agree with many of the above comments. In the sense that I am confuse at what the PPIC is trying toaccomplish. Are they making the legalization process easier or just increasing the number of immigrants accepted? Hopefully we do not increase the rate of legalization. The U.S. is already very over populated and we are in a recession. More people and less jobs is not a good idea. Howeve, I do not think that w need to get as extremes as they are in Arizona with the very blunt and forward illegal immigrant laws and regulations.

  28. 28 Chris Hirst May 16, 2010 at 3:15 PM

    It will lead to huge changes in the market. The reason that the governments economics pros dont know that is beause they are usign government stats. if we legalize the illegals then employers will have to pay them minimum wage instead of paying less. This means prices for goods will og up.

  29. 29 Matthew Jaber May 16, 2010 at 4:40 PM

    Legalizing illegal immigrants would not hurt us, but actually help us. They would not be stealing American jobs because the work the generally do is work that qualified people usually do. They are not a threat to well trained citizens because the majority of the jobs they obtain are high paying jobs. If they were legalized they would also have to pay taxes, so I do not see the harm in doing so.

  30. 30 Daniel Reddell May 16, 2010 at 11:38 PM

    I’m going to have to disagree with this article. Illegal immigrants are a huge part of California’s economy. Currently they do not pay taxes. If they were to be legalized, then they would have to pay taxes which would increase the amount of money the government gains from taxes. Currently, as illegal immigrants, they get paid below the legal minimum for wages. If they were to be legalized, they will be required to be paid minimum wage or more, which will have a trickling effect on the corporations of California, which will affect the economy in the long run.

  31. 31 Erik Rasmussen May 17, 2010 at 2:09 AM

    Regardless of how much legalizing immigrants could affect the economic well-being of the state, it can definitely add some money to our funds. If they are legal to work then they are entitled to the same taxes that every hard working American citizen pays. Maybe they should make it a little easier to legalize them because they are here whether we like it or not. At least make them pay the same taxes we do. If I were in the position of having to cross the border for better job opportunities I probably would. But if they were to make laws more strict, I wouldn’t be protesting because I am not supposed to be here in the first place. I would take the steps need to become a citizen. And maybe the US should just make it a little easier to become a citizen and help our economy. Give them an incentive to learn English on their own earnings. Most people know that businesses these days cater to help Hispanics work without knowing English anyways. Let them come, let them become a tax paying citizen, and let them help out our economy!!

  32. 32 Miles Atkinson May 17, 2010 at 2:50 AM

    I’m kind of confused whether this article is stating that legalizing immigrants are not doing any good to the US economy or are they trying to state that the illegal immigrants are taking over the labor force? If these illegal immigrants were US citizen will it solve the problem?

  33. 33 amos mccray-goldsmith May 17, 2010 at 2:39 PM

    the fact that most of the immigrant in this state are unskilled workers shows that if they do indeed become legal citizens it is not like they will be gunning for our corporate jobs any time soon. the only true economic effect that i foresee is that the price of food may increase slightly. this having to do with the fact that they would now have to be paid minimum wage, only a minor chuck of the overall economy.

  34. 34 Caitlin K May 17, 2010 at 4:02 PM

    Maybe legalizing all the currently illegal immigrants would not have much of an effect on the unemployment rate, but thats because they already have jobs. I find it hard to believe that by cracking down on the immigration issue, and requiring everyone to become legal citizens who pays into the system, would not have an effect on our financial state. There is so much money being put into programs to house, educate, feed, and protect illegal immigrants, and we don’t get anything back. In most cases, they immigrate here, only to send the money back home.

  35. 35 Luke Napier May 17, 2010 at 5:32 PM

    Legalizing those who are not citizens of this fine nation, would not have much of an effect on our finances. With the illegal immigrants only making up 10% of California’s work force, it would not a negative effect. If anything it would help bring things up. One could just simply see this as a burden with more people entering the work force, but it would also make those who are more capable than that other person. Although it would not have a big change it could also raise prices even more with people making even more money.

  36. 36 Jamie B May 17, 2010 at 5:33 PM

    I feel that if illegal immigrants became american citizens that they would still preform the same services that they do now. Illegal immigrants do the groundwork of the agriculture economy. Without them our economy would collapse. I do not believe that they would join the corporate business world.

  37. 37 Meaghan Madgett May 17, 2010 at 8:21 PM

    It is a controversial subject, illegal immigrants becoming legal. I feel that in this world, if we make the illegal immigrants legal in the work forice, it could help the unemployment rate, because these people already have jobs, even though they are getting paid in cash and under the table. The only downfall for the immigrants is they would be paying taxes, but that is good overall for the United States government.

  38. 38 Ibrahim Jamil May 17, 2010 at 9:03 PM

    Legalizing immigrants would help the work force. It will strengthen the economic and money circulation. yes it is big issue but it is better than immigrants taking money out of the country. I think it is good to legalize

  39. 39 Kelsey Zeller May 17, 2010 at 10:18 PM

    I think by making them legal it could help the economy in the long run. Right now they aren’t paying any taxes and it is hurting us. If we make them legal then they will have to start paying taxes and could help us get out of debt.

  40. 40 Justin Castro May 18, 2010 at 2:33 PM

    This article makes a lot of sense to me. There really are not as many illegal workers in this country than a lot of people like to believe. These men and women are not coming to the states to begin lifelong careers in medicine or law, but instead for more short term jobs that can just keep their head above water. They are not taking a significant number of jobs away from American workers, so I do not understand why certain people are making such a big deal about it. There will probably be a larger rush of immigrants looking for jobs in blue collar industries

  41. 41 Ji Young Yoo (Macro) May 18, 2010 at 6:21 PM

    The report seems to argue against the conventional wisdom that allowing illegal immigrants will dramatically increase unemployment rate. If the report is true, legalizing current illegal immigrants will not have a significant impact on the job market or state finance. If giving illegal immigrants a proper resident status is not going to take away people’s jobs or strain state budgets for assistance programs so much, then why won’t the state just legalize them and give them a chance to participate in the society with full rights and responsibilities? I wonder what other worries still remain.

  42. 42 Alex Plascencia May 19, 2010 at 12:42 AM

    Legalization would not have the biggest impact on the economy because most of the workers will not be lawyers or doctors, there will just be more field workers and construction and landscaping workers. The fact is that it is more public fear of legalizing illegal aliens because they do not want their jobs to be taken.

  43. 43 Blanca Cerda May 19, 2010 at 1:16 AM

    I agree with Alex’s last statement. I honestly do not understand why there is so much controversy over legalizing immigrants. The Europeans who came here first also took over the Native American land so why are people making legalizing immigrants such a big deal.


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