Santa Barbara-based PUEBLO has responded to FAIR’s most recent report, which says that illegal immigrants cost California $21.8 billion and the nation $113 billion annually. According to Grecia Lima, community organizer for the nonprofit advocacy group PUEBLO, the cost estimate is inaccurate and the solution FAIR (Federation for American Immigration Reform) proposes is “impossible.”
In an interview, Lima said the methodology FAIR used to arrive at its statistics was “completely not valid,” in particular its reliance on anecdotal evidence, and the lack of regressions. She also said there is the “major loophole of the costs and benefits,” meaning the report does not take into account what illegal immigrants contribute to the United States. Lima criticized FAIR’s solution to the immigrant program: the deportation of 12 million immigrants and their children even if their children were born in the United States. As an alternative solution, Lima offered USC’s Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration’s (CSII) report “The Economic Benefits of Immigrant Authorization in California.” That report claims that legalizing unauthorized immigrants could increase California’s budget by $384.4 million because California could collect another $310 million in income tax and $74.4 million in sales tax. CSII predicts that if illegal immigrants are granted amnesty and become better educated, they could contribute $16 billion annually to California.
The CSII report estimates there are currently around 1.8 million unauthorized Latino adults in the state who pay do pay around $280 million in state and $1.4 billion in federal income taxes annually.
“We need to understand the cost FAIR announced is just a diversion from trying to get concrete solutions,” Lima says, explaining that immigrants “have seen this kind of hostility before” from FAIR. Lima also says FAIR’s solution, to deport illegals and their legal families—the USC report estimates that 78 percent of children born to illegal immigrants were born in the U.S.—“does not go with the values of the community and the nation.”
“FAIR is trying to just divert and pander to emotional worries about undocumented immigrants, so this is what we need to remember when reading the report,” Lima says. “We need to think about solutions, not fear.”