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Opinion: Illegal Immigrants Impact Stimulus Bill

The conversation between Squawk Box Anchor Becky Quick and legend of finance Felix Rohatyn got me thinking.

Mr. Rohatyn was lamenting that the stimulus bill didn’t have more infrastructure spending in it (watch the clip below). He cited the usual reasons we hear about those kind of public works projects: they get people back to work right away, and we all get the benefits for years to come when we use the roads, bridges, etc. And yet, out of the $789 billion stimulus, only $50 billion is going to infrastructure.

There may be a reason there wasn’t more infrastructure spending in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Members of Congress may have been fearful about just whom they would be helping if they spent more money on big public works projects. Why? Because they could face the prospects of having to defend allotting taxpayer money which gives jobs to illegal immigrants.

Here’s why. A very large percentage of construction jobs are held by illegal immigrants—16 percent. That, according to the Pew Hispanic Center, which says that of 22 percent of all unauthorized migrants (their term, but you get the point) are in construction.

If you drill down into certain types of construction jobs, the percentage is even higher. Mason workers? Thirty-three percent are here illegally. The same is true for drywallers: 34 percent are undocumented.

Let me be clear, I am not one of those conservatives who want to “send them all back.” I am a strong believer in free markets, and the free movement of labor, capital, and goods. As a result, I think more immigrants should be allowed into the country.

It should be easier to get in here, not tougher. Immigrants keeps costs lower for all Americans. There’s a reason we spend so much less of our income at the grocery story compared to Europeans. And that’s just one reason. They keep our country vibrant and ever-changing in a good way.

But Congress is a political animal and they don’t want to go home to their local investigative news teams doing stories about stim-bill money going to illegal workers. And who can blame them?

More from Michelle Caruso-Cabrera:

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