News Articles

What, if Suddenly, Immigration to the US Stopped?

abandoned farm

By Jim Sliney Jr

The conversation in America has turned, temporarily to the idea of #publiccharge. It isn’t kind or compassionate to talk about your fellow man in terms of their monetary burden on a government. But since our society brought it up, let’s look a little closer.

Let’s get on the same page first. “Public charge,” the National Immigration Law Center tells us, “is a term used in immigration law to refer to a person who is primarily dependent on the government for support. The proposed new rule would broaden the definition of who is to be considered a public charge so that it includes immigrants who use one or more government programs listed in the proposed rule”. Is that the right way to judge the value of your fellow man?


According to Alexandria Fernandez Campbell of Vox, “The hardest-to-find workers are no longer computer engineers. They are home health care aides, restaurant workers, and hotel staff. The shift is happening because more and more Americans are going to college and taking professional jobs, while working-class baby boomers are retiring en masse.” That removes a huge portion of the population from the people who can fill those blue-collar jobs.

Details from The Bureau of Labor Statistics show that 17.4% of the labor force are immigrants (by the way, half of these are Hispanic, one quarter are Asian). Many more immigrant people work in natural resources, construction and maintenance than U.S.-born workers do. But something they have in common is that the largest industry both occupy is management, business, science and arts, not agriculture as most immigrant photographs would imply.

All of this is to say that the old notion that immigrants come to America and take good jobs away from born-Americans is outdated and wrong. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics says that for the last 16 months, there are more open, non-farming jobs, than workers who can fill those jobs.


abandoned house

What would happen if suddenly all undocumented workers were detained or removed? If the public charge is about the drag on the economy then it seems like someone’s got this all wrong.

  • Jobs would go away – millions of Americans who are employed by undocumented business owners would lose their jobs.
  • Construction would slow – 22% of construction workers are undocumented.
  • Meat and agriculture industries could break down – 36% of all agricultural workers are undocumented, that means over 1/3 of all food production would cease. Food prices would explode, and industries would not be able to fill the vacant jobs at the rate they pay currently.

The loss of undocumented immigrant labor would cost the U.S. $5 trillion over a decade. Undocumented Americans also pay $11.64 billion in state and local taxes. That would disappear. That GDP would decrease 2.6% ($434 billion) in a year.


Catholic Charities of New York has talked about how hard the “immigrant crisis” has been on new Americans. Immigrants live in fear of what might happen to them tomorrow. The shadow of hateful violence and racism still hangs over the country, and the sudden storm of immigrant detentions and arrests in Mississippi has brewed up a fear and anxiety most Americans can never imagine. Our new Americans have it hard.

But generous, inspired people have empowered Catholic Charities to extend both hands to the immigrants in our country. CCNY reaches out with legal services, hotlines, and offers fundamental help connecting immigrants with the services CCNY provides, or services provided by their many partners and agencies.

I presented you with a bunch of statistics attempting to put a value on immigrants. But there is nothing I need to show you to remind you of the value these families and individuals possess inherently. They, like you, like the people at Catholic Charities, like everyone, share in the universal family – the family of the children of God. No other statistics needed.

Help us continue to provide dignified, compassionate care to all our brothers and sisters. If you cannot give money, give time or sweat as a volunteer. If you can’t volunteer, give prayers, or pass on the good word of what we are all doing together.