Donald W. Reynolds National Center For Business Journalism

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Immigration is now part of your beat

November 28, 2018

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Immigration is a topic for business journalists because immigrants, whether here with official permission or not, are very much part of the labor force and consumer economic consumption. (Photo via Pixabay user mademoddymad)

It used to be that immigration was considered fodder for political journalists. Or social issues journalists. Or maybe the reporters and editors who specialize in the topic.

These days, it’s also a topic for business journalists because immigrants, whether here with official permission or not, are very much part of the labor force and consumer economic consumption. That’s been true for a very long time. The documentary Harvest of Shame, hosted by Edward R. Murrow, looked at the conditions of migrant workers in the 1960s who came to do agricultural work in the U.S.

Estimates of the number of undocumented immigrants in the country has been around 11 million. However, a recent Yale-MIT study puts it as twice as large, or 22 million, although it could be as low as 16.5 million or as high as 29.1 million. That would be between 5 percent and 8.9 percent of the total population, a significant factor.

Business journalists should begin to incorporate the impact of undocumented immigrants on the economy, businesses, and labor if they haven’t already.

Impact on society and spending

Using the smaller population estimates, the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy has continued to build estimates of tax contributions. Young people who have been eligible for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program pay $1.7 billion a year in state and local taxes, an average of 8.3 percent of their income. ITEP’s estimate for the total state and local taxes paid by undocumented immigrants is $11.74 billion a year.

Some researchers have claimed that GDP rises by 1.15 percent by every 1 percent population increase, as ProPublica has reported. A research paper from 2016 suggests that undocumented immigrants also increase GDP. ProPublica used the paper’s methods to calculate that if 11.3 million undocumented immigrants were suddenly gone from the country, with them would go $8 trillion over 14 years.

Impact on companies and jobs

There are some industries that depend heavily on undocumented workers, including agriculture, construction, services, and transportation, as CBS reported:

For example, in 2014, unauthorized immigrants made up 24 percent of maids and cleaners, an occupation expected to need 112,000 more workers by 2024. In construction, the number of additional laborers needed is estimated at close to 150,000. And while only 4 percent of personal care and home health aides are undocumented, the U.S. will soon require more than 800,000 people to fill the jobs necessary to take care of retiring baby boomers.

There are industry-wide and company-specific potential stories to cover.

In addition are questions about the ultimate impact on labor. The latest studies argue that immigrants don’t take jobs from US residents, which leaves companies in a difficult position, if they need help, can’t find citizens willing to do it, and cannot legally employ undocumented workers.

In all, the topic is tied to business and complex enough to have implications for many story topics.

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