NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Amnesty Won't Solve Immigrants' Problems

August 29, 2001

The Mexican government supports an illegal alien amnesty, and the Bush Administration is expected to propose a new Mexican guest worker program during President Vicente Fox's state visit in September. But legalizing illegal aliens won't change the fundamental problems associated with high levels of unskilled immigration, according to a report from the Center for Immigration Studies.

The fundamental problem is that the majority of immigrants from Mexico are unskilled and poorly educated.

  • Almost two-thirds of adult Mexican immigrants have not completed high school, compared to fewer than one in 10 natives.
  • Although they comprise 4.2 percent of the population, Mexican immigrants and their U.S.-born minor children account for 10.2 percent of all persons in poverty and 12.5 percent of those without health insurance.
  • More than half of Mexican immigrant families that have lived in the United States for more than 20 years, almost all of whom are legal residents, live in or near poverty, and one-third are uninsured.
  • Even after welfare reform, an estimated 34 percent of households headed by legal Mexican immigrants and 25 percent headed by illegal Mexican immigrants used at least one major welfare program, in contrast to 15 percent of native households.

Based on estimates developed by the National Academy of Sciences for immigrants by age and education at arrival, CIS calculates the lifetime fiscal impact on government -- taxes paid minus services used -- for the average adult Mexican immigrant is a negative $55,200.

Efforts to integrate Mexican immigrants into the economic mainstream should focus on job retraining and adult literacy, including improving English language skills, says CIS. And public education must be improved in the states where they settle.

Source: Steven A. Camarota, "Immigration From Mexico Assessing the Impact on the United States," Center Paper 19, July 2001, Center for Immigration Studies, 1522 K Street, N.W., Suite 820, Washington, D.C. 20005, (202) 466-8185.

For study text


Browse more articles on Government Issues