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Brooks Wilson's Economics Blog: The Utah Compact

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Utah Compact

If I had to summarize the economic impact of illegal immigration I would conclude that it is a net benefit to the U.S. economy.  Illegal immigrants are a resource to our economy.  They produce goods and service that native born Americans enjoy.  They pay property taxes, sales taxes, and many pay income and social insurance taxes.  The economic literature is not clear on their net burden on taxes.  They may take out more tax revenue than they pay into the system or they may not.  They lower the wages of low skill workers, but there is evidence that they raise the wages of native born low skill workers.  It is more correct say that they expand goods and service offered within our economy rather than that they take resources from others.   

Illegal immigrants often live in households with American citizens.  Many illegal parents have legal children.  Some parents have legal and illegal children.  How can a compassionate nation divide these families?  It is not even clear how a cost conscious nation should deal with illegal immigration to minimize costs.  Should we deport illegal immigrants and place their children in foster care?  Would it be cheaper to send their American children to Mexico and allow them to return to the United States with little or no education, or knowledge of our country, English, and qualified for benefits of the welfare state?

In Utah, a group of Republican and Democratic politicians, businessmen, and religious leaders have signed a framework for a political settlement of the immigration issue, that I believe would be useful in the national debate (“Community leaders urge moderate approach to immigration reform”).  It has been named the Utah compact.  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and the bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake have both endorsed it.  The compact reads (“Official text of Utah Compact declaration on immigration reform”)
FEDERAL SOLUTIONS: Immigration is a federal policy issue between the U.S. government and other countries — not Utah and other countries. We urge Utah's congressional delegation, and others, to lead efforts to strengthen federal laws and protect our national borders. We urge state leaders to adopt reasonable policies addressing immigrants in Utah.

LAW ENFORCEMENT: We respect the rule of law and support law enforcement's professional judgment and discretion. Local law enforcement resources should focus on criminal activities, not civil violations of federal code.

FAMILIES: Strong families are the foundation of successful communities. We oppose policies that unnecessarily separate families. We champion policies that support families and improve the health, education and well-being of all Utah children.

ECONOMY: Utah is best served by a free-market philosophy that maximizes individual freedom and opportunity. We acknowledge the economic role immigrants play as workers and taxpayers. Utah's immigration policies must reaffirm our global reputation as a welcoming and business-friendly state.

A FREE SOCIETY: Immigrants are integrated into communities across Utah. We must adopt a humane approach to this reality, reflecting our unique culture, history and spirit of inclusion. The way we treat immigrants will say more about us as a free society and less about our immigrant neighbors. Utah should always be a place that welcomes people of goodwill.

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