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Houston Business Group Advocates Making All Illegals 'Legal

"The reason we have a broken federal system is because we make it so hard to allow folks to come here legally."

A curious suggestion from a group of business leaders in Houston believes that legalizing all of the undocumented workers in the city would bring a huge financial boost to their struggling economy.

With over two million people, Houston is the biggest city in Texas and the fourth-largest metropolitan area in the country. According to estimates by the Pew Hispanic Center, Houston also has more than 130,000 illegals working in and around the city, earning a projected $7 billion dollars a year and robbing the federal and local tax authorities of more than $1.4 billion dollars a year in revenue. That $1.4 billion dollar figure caught the attention of a group of local business folks known as the Greater Houston Partnership.

Here's the math presented in the report from the Greater Houston Partnership:

If all undocumented workers in the region and their employers paid Social Security, Medicare, unemployment insurance, and federal income taxes, the additional revenues would exceed $1.4 billion.

  • Social Security would receive an additional $851.7 million.
  • Medicare would receive an additional $205.8 million.
  • The U.S. Department of the Treasury would receive an additional $333.5 million.
  • The Texas Workforce Commission would receive an additional $33.0 million.

Also included in the GHP report was additional data showing the income levels of illegal workers in various professions:

Sources: Estimates of Unauthorized in the Houston MSA - Greater Houston Partnership calculations based on Texas Workforce Commission and Pew Hispanic Center data; Average Weekly Wage - Texas Workforce Commission, Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages, March 2008; Average Annual Salary - Greater Houston Partnership calculations

The subject of blanket amnesty for all illegal workers has ignited impassioned discussions on both sides of the argument. Yesterday, Matt Patrick of Houston radio station KTRH invited Armando Walle, a Texas State legislator, to debate the issue with Jim Gilchrist of the Minutemen Project:

The Houston MSA (Houston-Sugarland-Baytown, TX) currently reports 7.6% unemployment -- and that is not counting the estimated 132,000 undocumented workers.

Where do you stand on this idea?

(H/T - KTRH in Houston)

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