Colorado passes bill to allow undocumented immigrants to attend higher-ed institutions – a look at the economic impacts

ASSET Bill sponsor, Senator Mike Johnston (D-Denver), makes a speech of the need to grant education to undocumented immigrants (January, 2013).

ASSET Bill sponsor, Senator Mike Johnston (D-Denver), gives a speech on the need to grant higher education rights to undocumented immigrants (January, 2013).

Basic economics has largely led the debate on immigration reform in the US. Lawmakers and citizens frequently make the claim that undocumented immigrants’ access to public education drains the US economy.  But with the recent passing of Colorado’s ASSET Bill, legislation that allows undocumented immigrants to go to college for in-state tuition rates, a look at Brooking’s Institution’s 2010 report on the economic impacts of immigration will  help illuminate why educating the 11 million of undocumented immigrants is a net-positive for the US economy.

First, a look at the actual terms of the new law. The law will approve in-state tuition rates for undocumented immigrants, so long as they graduated from a Colorado high school. The law is intended to encourage young first and second generation undocumented immigrants to go to college, even if they have not yet gained US citizenship status.  The idea is that the law would give amnesty to young immigrants who, by no fault of their own, were brought to the US illegally in prior waves of immigration and give them a more certain path to citizenship. Thirteen other states already have legislation like it.

The passing of the bill in the House last week was a major turn-around for this type of legislation in Colorado. This was the seventh time legislation like it was proposed by lawmakers, but the first time it passed both the Senate and the House.  Now, the bill only has one last step; to be signed by Governor Hickenlooper; a full supporter of the bill. (A video of him, the sponsors and other supporters rallying the bill early in the legislative season is below).

Most opponents of this and other immigration reform bills say that the US should not have to pay for immigrants who come to the US and put a drain on its resources. The basic idea is that immigrants come, take jobs, take money that belongs to US-citizens who pay taxes, and overally, contribute less to society. In short, it is assumed that the costs of immigration are much higher than its benefits.

Looking at the report written by Brookings Institution in 2010, but still relevant, the facts surrounding the economic impacts of immigration show that increasing the availability of resources to immigrants does not reduce the economic and social wealth of the US. In fact, the overall wealth of the average American citizen and the social and economic wealth of the US overall, is improved.

A look at a few of Brooking’s facts related to the economic and social wealth impact of immigration in the US:

1. On average, American lives have improved due to immigration

The Brooking’s Institution report says that the greater number of immigrants has led to higher standards of living for the average American. Further, it notes that regardless of the immigrant’s education level, low or high, it has improved the prices of goods and increased the wages, on average, for US citizens.

2. The actual costs of an immigrant in the US is NOT higher than the benefits

Simply speaking, the report shows that the cost to the US of an immigrant in the US is LESS than the benefits it receives from the taxes they pay and other economic and social benefits that result from immigration. For example, an immigrant is three times more likely to start a business than a US-born citizen, generating a higher amount of revenue for himself and others around him, according to the report*.

*One of the limitations of this rule, however, is that state-governments may not always be the benefactor. If the immigrant moves into another state, because the costs of living (including education) is too high, for example, the future benefits of that worker’s life might go to another state.  That is why state-law is so important in growing its educated workforce and the opportunity for immigrants to have a productive life.

3. Immigrants currently have lower education levels than US-born citizens, but have a greater number of PhD’s than the US.

It may not be a surprise that there is a higher number of uneducated (no high school diploma) immigrants in the US. (Could it be because the cost of college is too high?) But it might be surprising that there are more immigrants with PhDs in the US than there are US-born citizens with PhDs. This may suggest that US-born citizens’ privilege of getting discounted in-state tuition rates still does not put them ahead of immigrants in terms of higher education, and, furthermore, that the number of immigrants with PhDs might spurt if legislation that broke down educational barriers was passed .

The number of undocumented immigrants with a post-secondary education or higher are nearly the same or higher than US-born citizens.

The number of undocumented immigrants with a post-secondary education or higher are nearly the same or higher than US-born citizens. (, Greenstone & Looney, 2010)

Other surprising facts from the report:

  • Overall, the US is behind in educating its immigrant population and countries like Canada, New Zealand, and Australia that have immigration policies specifically geared towards education, consequently have higher rates of education. (In Canada, for example, 22% of immigrants have a lower level of education compared to US’s 46%.)

Look at the graph of the education levels of immigrants in each of the countries:

(, Greenstone & Looney, 2010)

(, Greenstone & Looney, 2010)

  •  Also, immigrants are NOT a strain on the law enforcement and prisons, as many people think. (There are at least three-times as many US-born felons in US prisons than foreign-born.)

As ASSET moves on to the governor’s desk, it may still be a long time before Colorado sees the real effects of immigration reforms like this.  But it is apparent, however, that a stronger pipeline of educated immigrants in-state is likely to result in positive net economic impacts for Colorado.

(Video footage provided by Mark Montoya, edited by Diana Aqra)

3 thoughts on “Colorado passes bill to allow undocumented immigrants to attend higher-ed institutions – a look at the economic impacts

  1. Immigrants are being allowed more and more rights due to the fact that global bankers are intentionally trying to crash both European and American economies.

    Global bankers right now are working on a one world currency via war with Iran, a false flag event in America, or a stock market crash. Globalist bankers are engineering a crash by whatever means possible. This is especially true when looking at the topic of immigration.

    If immigration is loosened up, which it has been for some time now in the US, competition for labor increases drastically. When it comes to the debate of loose immigration in the US, our pro government media attacks free speech by pulling the race card on this particular issue. The US media makes it “racist” to even bring up the issue as it pertains to higher labor competition. Higher labor competition means an ever more dwindling middle class; and most importantly, dwindling competition.

    A financial collapse is looming still in the US; and immigration to the US has obviously been encouraged to make the middle class, business owners, and the economy go down. Loose immigration is a tool of globalism in our country, due to the fact that immigrants have more rights, privileges, and freedoms than Americans have today. When you give the collective what a few have worked for, productivity goes down, because you have some working and others getting freebies. It is unjust. Globalist agenda uses loose immigration policy to weaken competition and resistance to globalist agenda.

    Anyways, great post; and great blog!

  2. Pingback: The foreseeable economic impacts of undocumented immigrants gaining rights to higher ed | Colorado Is GLobal

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