Immigration's Reality Versus Trump's Rhetoric

Immigration's Reality Versus Trump's Rhetoric

(Bloomberg View) -- Sometimes the best response to overheated political rhetoric is one of those dull if worthy white papers issued with alarming regularity by Washington think tanks and research organizations. So it is with two recent reports on immigration, both useful correctives to Donald Trump's statements on the subject.

A Pew Research Center report, released this week, confirms previous findings: The number of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. peaked in 2007 before dropping sharply -- with more undocumented Mexicans, in particular, leaving the U.S. than entering. Net illegal immigration is flat, and has been for several years. Contrary to Trump's claims, undocumented immigrants are not "pouring across our borders unabated" before going on to commit "great amounts of crime."

That Donald Trump lacks credibility no longer qualifies as news. More interesting are the implications of this report for his immigration proposals.

First, the U.S. border with Mexico is not being overrun. So an elaborate, expensive wall is entirely unnecessary. Second, most undocumented immigrants in the U.S. -- about two-thirds -- have been in the country for more than a decade. Pew estimates that, as of 2012, 4 million of them lived with their U.S.-citizen children.

Another study released this week -- this one by the Center for American Progress, a think tank allied with Hillary Clinton's campaign -- found that expelling the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants would cost the federal government almost $900 billion in lost revenue over a decade while reducing the nation's gross domestic product by $4.7 trillion. Those losses would be in addition to the costs of deportation.

The Pew data lead to the same conclusion that a bipartisan supermajority of U.S. senators reached in 2013: The settled, stable undocumented immigrants in the U.S. need a path to legalization and, eventually, citizenship.

--Editors: Francis Wilkinson, Michael Newman

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