After analyzing the financial and economic implications of Donald Trump’s immigration plan, it is now reasonable to turn to Hillary Clinton’s plan. Her plan differs from Trump’s in distinct ways that could impact the economy significantly. Clinton lays out a few specific policy positions on her campaign website; analyzing hers after Trump’s will help us determine whose the country should adapt.
A stark contrast to Trump’s immigration plan is Clinton’s desire to offer a full pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Where Trump requires immigrants to leave the country in order to apply for legal status, Clinton wishes to keep families together and offer them the opportunity to “come out of the shadows” to become legal.
As we discussed in our analysis of Trump’s plan, his requirement that undocumented immigrants either be deported or leave on their own would decrease employment, sales tax revenue, payroll tax revenue, and economic consumption. However, it would also decrease stress on infrastructure due to over population and decrease other setbacks to illegal immigration. There are pros and cons to Trump’s plan, and Clinton’s plan would consist of the reverse pros and cons.
Allowing undocumented immigrants to remain in the country would maintain the current 8.1 million jobs they supply, the estimated $12 billion they pay in Social Security tax, the $12 billion they pay in other tax, and the undetermined amount they pay in consumption within the economy. Due to these contributions, immigrants fill gaps in the labor supply which raises wages in many economic sectors, and their tax revenue funds the government while their consumption fuels the economy. Without their presence in the nation, all these benefits would be lost.
Now, some people may counter that the jobs filled by immigrants would instead be filled by Americans if the immigrants were not in the country. That may be true in low-skill sectors that may not follow such legal avenues of payment. Due to that, employers could fire American workers in order to hire foreign workers that they do not have to pay as much since it would be under the table. Deporting these workers would indeed solve this problem but also would offering these immigrants a pathway to citizenship. Allowing them to become legal would disable employers’ ability to pay them under the table. If both deporting and citizenship would reach the same end here, citizenship seems like the better option since that route would maintain the other benefits already mentioned.
By keeping undocumented immigrants in the country, there are still other areas of the economy that immigrants and current law affect negatively. Not allowing immigrants to purchase health insurance forces them to use more expensive emergency rooms when they require medical attention. This stresses the healthcare industry with an additional $4.3 billion in cost annually. Trump’s deportation plan would solve this, but Clinton’s plan of allowing immigrants to purchase health insurance would as well. Additionally, allowing undocumented immigrants to buy into the Affordable Care Act exchanges could spread out the risk pool of the insurance system, which could help to reduce costs for Americans.
Clinton does not include this explicitly in her plan since states would likely have to implement it, but allowing immigrants to obtain drivers’ licenses would actually decrease insurance costs for Americans. Having drivers on the road without licenses or insurances increases risk to all other drivers. A study on Colorado’s allowance of this practice estimated a savings of $29.5 million to drivers and $113.1 million in increased revenue for insurance companies just for that single state.
While the presence of undocumented immigrants has many benefits to the American economy, the country still needs to ensure that the southern border is secure for another reason: illicit drug trafficking. Trump proposes a concrete wall to be constructed in order to fight this illegality while Clinton proposes simply more funding for border security. There is scant data on whether increased security would be as or more effective than a wall, but this plan could potentially achieve the same end without the expensive $12-25 billion cost of a wall and its maintenance over five years. Drug trafficking currently costs the healthcare system $11 billion annually and $193 billion to the overall economy. This significantly expensive cost ought to be reduced via immigration reform. Clinton may be able to do so if border security is effective enough.
Costs of Clinton’s Plan (over 5 years)
Lower Wages / Replacement of American Jobs in Low-Skill Sectors: Undetermined Cost
Stress on Infrastructure and Resources: Undetermined Cost
Increased Border Security: Undetermined Cost
–Total Cost: Undetermined
Benefits of Clinton’s Plan (over 5 years)
Higher Wages / Employment in High-Skill Sectors: Undetermined Amount
Social Security Contribution: Net $60 Billion Maintained
Tax Contribution: $60 Billion Maintained
Economic Consumption: Undetermined Amount Maintained
Lower Prices on Some Goods: Undetermined Amount Maintained
Allowing Immigrant Healthcare: Up To $21.5 Billion Saved
Ending Drug Trafficking: Up To $1,020 Billion Saved
Ending Family Detention Centers: Undetermined Amount Saved
–Total Benefit: At Least $1,161.5 Billion Saved or Gained
Clinton’s immigration plan seeks to maximize the benefits that undocumented immigrants provide while minimizing the benefits. Unfortunately, the costs of her plan are difficult to estimate. Approximating stress on infrastructure and how wages are held down in low-skill sectors is not so intuitive. Additionally, Clinton does not detail how much she is willing to spend on increased border security. However, Clinton’s immigration plan does offer many economic and financial benefits as long as drug trafficking can be eliminated; that will depend on how secure the border becomes.