Migration Math


When President George W. Bush met with Mexican President Vicente Fox and made noise about handing out some 3 million new green cards to illegal aliens, immigration supporters and opponents were quick to weigh in with studies. It's no surprise that the anti-immigration Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) and the pro-immigration North American Integration and Development Center (NAIDC) came to opposite conclusions. What's surprising is that they generated those conclusions based on the same economic model.

In July, the CIS released a report documenting the low education of, and high use of welfare services by, Mexican immigrants. Using a National Research Council (NRC) model developed to quantify the economic affects of immigration, it concluded that the average immigrant drains $55,200 from government coffers over his lifetime.

The NAIDC released its report in late August. Building on the same NRC model, it claims that Mexican immigrants add $300 billion to the economy each year. While the CIS study says that low education levels are a burden, NAIDC concludes that the feds ought to pay Mexico $320 million a year for educating part of the U.S. workforce.

There's another view on what should define immigration policy: The data-free notion that in a free society, people ought to be able to move where they can best pursue their happiness.

Mexican-born living in the U.S.
Source: U.S. Census Bureau

Legal annual immigration from Mexico
Source: U.S. Census Bureau

Estimated annual illegal immigration from Mexico
Source: INS