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Arizona economy impacted by exodus of illegal immigrants

Arizonans need not look outside the state’s border to find how and why the issue of illegal immigration will again spark debate during the upcoming presidential election.

While economists from differing political views acknowledge cracking down on immigration led to wage increases and job opportunities for native workers — not to mention saved money on health care and education costs — the exodus of illegal immigrants also can hurt an economy.

The Wall Street Journal detailed how Arizona initially struggled when illegal immigrants left the state due to new laws implemented in 2008. However, a few benefits arose.

For the paper, Moody’s Analytics “concluded that the departures alone had reduced Arizona’s gross domestic product by an average of 2 percent a year between 2008 and 2015. Because of the departures, total employment in the state was 2.5 percent lower, on average, than it otherwise would have been between 2008 and 2015.”

Past research from Judith Gans, who formerly oversaw an immigration policy program at the University of Arizona, backed up the effects of tougher immigration law.

She concluded that immigrants — both legal and illegal — brought a net annual tax revenue of almost $1 billion into Arizona.

The Pew Research Center has reported that the population of undocumented workers dropped by 40 percent in Arizona (about 200,000 illegal immigrants left the state) from 2007-2012 and held steady since.

For reference, California’s rate of undocumented workers leaving was only 12.5 percent.

Legal workers picked up less than 10 percent of the jobs formerly held by illegal immigrants, according to economists from the Public Policy Institute of California and the University of California at Berkeley. The good news: Median income of “low-skilled whites” who were employed rose 6 percent since 2008.

But there were positives reported after tougher immigration and E-Verify employment laws led to undocumented workers leaving the state.

Wages rose for farm workers (15 percent) and construction workers (10 percent) as Arizona’s economy made a comeback, reports to Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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