New Jersey’s economy would enjoy a $12 billion boost over the next decade and add 1,500 new jobs a year from executive actions on immigration issued by President Barack Obama that are currently being held up in federal court, according to a new report issued by a liberal New Jersey think tank.
The report was released just months after Gov. Chris Christie, a second-term Republican who is running for president, filed a legal brief with the governors of several other states to oppose Obama’s 2014 executive actions, which would expand deportation protections for millions of undocumented immigrants nationwide, including an estimated 200,000 undocumented New Jersey residents.
And the think tank’s findings also come as real-estate developer and Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump — a well-known figure in New Jersey thanks to his casinos and golf courses — has reignited a simmering national debate over immigration after making a number of racist comments about Mexican immigrants in a recent speech. According to Trump, Mexican immigrants are “bringing drugs” and “bringing crime” to the United States. He also said “some I assume, are good people,” but others are “rapists.”
Right now, a federal judge in Texas has put a hold on Obama’s executive actions in a decision that followed the filing of a lawsuit last year by the state of Texas over cost concerns. The Obama administration has filed an appeal, and the latest legal arguments are scheduled to be held today in New Orleans.
If Obama’s immigration orders are ultimately allowed to stand, the report released yesterday by New Jersey Policy Perspective, based in Trenton, said the state economy stands to benefit greatly.
Nearly half of the state’s 477,000 undocumented residents would be affected by Obama’s actions, including 146,000 undocumented parents of legal residents and 55,000 who were brought here as children, the report said.
They would benefit by becoming more integrated into society, earning higher wages, qualifying for jobs that better match their skills and by being free to open new businesses here.
[related]In all, the executive actions would translate into 1,500 new jobs each year and add nearly $30 million in annual state and local tax revenue to the estimated $613 million a year that undocumented residents already contribute, according to the report. The total boost to New Jersey’s economy — which has struggled in recent years to recover from the most recent recession despite business-tax cuts and other economic-growth initiatives devised by Christie – would be worth $11.9 billion over the next decade.
“These federal actions on immigration are a clear, simple, and important step forward for millions of immigrants across the nation. And as a state with many immigrants, New Jersey clearly has a lot to gain,” said Erika J. Nava, a policy analyst with the think tank and author of the report. “Most importantly, more than 200,000 New Jerseyans would directly benefit and be better integrated into the state’s social and economic fabric.”
Right now, undocumented families in New Jersey earn roughly $34,500 in annual income, far below the nearly $114,000 earned by New Jersey families overall. More than 60 percent of those who stand to benefit live in six counties — Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Middlesex, Passaic and Union — but there are those who would benefit to some degree in all 21 counties, the report said.
“And when these folks are allowed to participate more fully in our communities, they’ll help give an important boost to the state’s economy, as well as put their own families on clearer paths out of poverty,” Nava said.
Christie joined the legal brief with others states opposing Obama’s executive actions in late March. He said he favors comprehensive immigration reform enacted through federal legislation and characterized the filing of the brief with the other governors as sending a message to Obama, who is a Democrat, to encourage compromise with Republicans who control Congress.
But Gordon MacInnes, president of New Jersey Policy Perspective, said it’s “disappointing” to hear claims that nothing should happen on the immigration issue until Obama and Congress work out a long-term fix.
“Since the benefits of the executive action would be shared by all of us, the federal appeals court should move quickly to put the president’s policies back on course,” MacInnes said.
Since taking office in early 2010, Christie has developed a nuanced stance on immigration issues. He signed a law in 2013 that extended in-state tuition rates at state colleges and universities to New Jersey’s undocumented students. But he’s also called for a crackdown on employers who are hiring undocumented workers.
Christie also hasn’t parted ways with Iowa Congressman Steve King — a key Republican ally of his in the early presidential caucus state who he’s campaigned and raised funds for — even after King said in 2012 that for every valedictorian who’s here illegally, there a hundred Mexican immigrants developing “calves the size of cantaloupes” by hauling marijuana across the desert.
Christie said in response to Trump’s June 16 speech that the comments were “inappropriate,” but added that the two men have been friends for more than a decade.
Trump, meanwhile, has refused to soften his comments even as he’s been criticized by other presidential hopefuls and has lost business partnerships as a result.
Christie’s office did not respond to a request for comment on the New Jersey Policy Perspective report yesterday.