A Texas congressman wants to know what the economic impact on the Lone Star State would be if it lost its estimated 1.4 million undocumented immigrants.
Rep. Pete Gallego, a Democrat, believes the cost to Texas would be much higher now than a 2006 estimate done by the state comptroller. So his office has sent a letter to the comptroller asking for a more current analysis.
In 2006, Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn concluded that a loss of the undocumented immigrant population would have resulted in “a loss to our gross state product of $17.7 billion.”
But a more recent report by the Immigration Policy Center this year put the economic loss at more than twice the last estimate, which Gallego’s office said was the first such comprehensive effort by a state.
“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,” said the IPC report.
Gallego’s office sent the comptroller a letter saying that more current information is crucial as Congress considers measures on reforming the U.S. immigration system. A Senate bill drafted by a bipartisan group of four Democrats and four Republicans would, at its core, tighten border security and provide legal status to many of the nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants.
Many elected officials and economic experts have noted that coming up with precise figures regarding anything related to undocumented immigrants is virtually impossible.
“It is difficult to count a population that does not want to be counted," the Texas comptroller, Strayhorn, said in her 2006 report, "particularly when the law allows them access to many government services without regard to citizenship, such as those delivered by public hospitals and public schools.”
The provision dealing with the path to legalization has sparked debates about whether undocumented immigrants contribute more financially than they take – many pay taxes and spend in the local economies – or whether they use more in services than what they contribute through various means.
“Your report would be vital to the 38 members of Congress from Texas, and to other elected officials and decision makers as they grapple with immigration reform,” said the letter to the comptroller. “The study might also assist in shaping legislation related to immigration at the state and local levels.”
The debate certainly has been heated in Texas.
Sen. Ted Cruz, a Republican, has vehemently denounced providing a pathway to legalization, saying that it would amount to “amnesty.” Cruz and other opponents of legalizing them say it will only encourage more illegal immigration.
But other lawmakers – including San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro and his brother, U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, both Democrats – have said that all the nation’s undocumented immigrants cannot realistically be deported, and that legalizing them would bring them out of the shadows and onto the tax rolls.
“The passage or failure of immigration reform will profoundly affect Texas. An updated study from the Texas Comptroller’s office would shed light on the true impact to our state by unauthorized immigrants,” the letter to the comptroller said. “Your findings and conclusions could also prove invaluable during deliberation on the various proposals being considered by Congress. It would be unfortunate for groundless statements presented as facts to go unchallenged.”
GOP lawmakers in the House are arguing over allowing undocumented immigrants from receiving publicly funded health care services under any reform bill. Rep. Raul Labrador, a Republican from Idaho, left a bipartisan group working on bills in the House over the issue; he opposed allowing them to be part of any public healthcare program.
Elizabeth Llorente can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on https://twitter.com/Liz_Llorente