How Immigration Affects the Economy: Insights from a Florida Policy Researcher

Earlier this month, Governor DeSantis signed a bill that would bring significant changes to Florida’s immigration laws. Proponents argue that the new law will help minimize illegal immigration, while immigration advocates say that it sends the wrong message to immigrants living in Florida. The National Sheriffs Association believes that illegal immigration is economically and security-wise unsustainable. Sadaf Knight, CEO of the Florida Institute for Policy Studies, discusses how immigration affects the economy and the impact of responding to the new laws on Florida residents.

Knight’s research indicates that the state’s GDP could decrease by $12.6 billion within a year due to the new laws. This development could dramatically affect consumers’ purchasing power as some goods and services would become either more expensive or unavailable. The Federation for Immigration Reform supports the new law, arguing that undocumented immigrants annually cost state taxpayers approximately $8 billion, which translates to just under $1,000 per family. These costs result from education, healthcare, and legal expenses that assist undocumented immigrants in Florida’s communities.

Knight argues that undocumented workers contribute to the state’s economy, estimating that such individuals pay around $600 million a year in state and local taxes. The new laws could yield a culture of fear that could deter people from migrating to the state, Knight warns. People have already started leaving due to fear that the laws could affect their economic wellbeing.

Knight adds that immigrants make up a significant proportion of key industries in Florida. She points out that frontline workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, such as healthcare professionals, childcare workers, social service providers, and transportation personnel, all have a migrant background. She notes that 4.3 million or 21% of Florida’s population consists of immigrants, with some counties having up to 22% of their population comprising immigrants. While Cuba, Haiti, Colombia, Mexico, and Jamaica are the top five countries of origin for immigrants in Florida, the state also boasts a significant Black immigrant population.

To sum up, the new immigration bill in Florida has far-reaching implications for how people feel, Knight notes. The bill impacts not only the state’s economy but also the population, particularly immigrants and their families.

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