Legislation to create an Arizona-style immigration law here in Michigan was introduced earlier this year. The Immigration Law Enforcement Act, Senate Bill 1388 and House Bill 6256, would require all police to enforce federal immigration laws and require them to request immigration papers from anyone they suspect of being in the county illegally.
Recent polls show that two-thirds of likely voters in Michigan support the controversial Arizona-style law to control illegal immigration. With such a large majority in support of this, it’s important to clear up some of the misinformation being spread about the impact of immigrants in the state.
First off, deportation of undocumented immigrants from the state would be very costly. A study by the Perryman Group found that Michigan could stand to lose over $3.8 billion in economic activity by removing undocumented workers from the labor force.
In contrast, the personal income of all undocumented workers in Michigan accounts for over $1 billion, taxable income the state desperately needs.
Second, undocumented immigrants make up only 1.7 percent of the labor force, compared to 7.5 percent of Arizona’s labor force, yet Michigan has an unemployment rate of 13.9 percent, and Arizona at 9.6 percent. Looks like a correlation between high rates of undocumented immigrants and unemployment is unfounded.
As the League’s fact sheet on immigration shows, arguments for increasing control over illegal immigration include increased crime, a drain on social services, and illegal entry by immigrants. These arguments are faulty. Consider:
- Native-born males are five times more likely to commit crime.
- Health care costs for the average immigrant are 55 percent less than the average native-born citizen.
- Over half of illegal immigrants entered the states legally, but their visas have expired.
Arguments against increased control reflect the fiscal benefits of legalizing all immigrants. For example:
- Nationally, undocumented immigrants contribute $8.5 billion in Social Security and Medicare funds annually.
- Michigan’s largest city, Detroit, has a 9 percent foreign-born population who contributes 11 percent to the city’s economic output.
- Asian and Latino-owned businesses in Michigan produced over $8.3 billion in annual business income and employed over 60,000 people in 2002.
- According to Global Detroit, one in three tech start-ups in the last decade in Michigan were started by an immigrant.
Being a daughter of immigrant parents, my family moved to the states to have more opportunity and create opportunity. My parents currently reside in Dearborn, home to the largest Arab American population in the U.S. This population alone generated $7.7 billion in total earnings in 2005 and account for $544 million in state tax revenue annually for the state of Michigan.
Our immigration policy makes it very difficult for immigrants to become and remain legal citizens. Barriers to legalization allow employers to exploit undocumented workers, a very vulnerable population, and keep immigrants from their families and investing in their community. Perhaps now, with the facts laid out, Michigan will see how much immigrants benefit our communities, by contributing to the local economy, creating jobs, and bringing diversity to our state.
— Anika Fassia