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Deportations weaken Oregon’s economy and plunge families into severe economic hardship

News Release
December 15, 2021

Oregon’s economy will take a $130 million hit and some 3,500 children will lose the financial support of a family member if the current backlog of deportation cases are decided as history indicates they will be, according to a new report by the Oregon Center for Public Policy (OCPP).

“Undocumented immigrants boost Oregon’s economy as workers, consumers, and taxpayers,” said OCPP Senior Policy Analyst Janet Bauer. “The removal of undocumented workers through deportation disrupts key industries such as agriculture and the counties that depend heavily on those industries. It also wreaks havoc on the stability of Oregon families.”

Some 9,000 Oregonians are currently fighting deportation in immigration court, according to the report. An immigration case affects not only them, but their 8,000 family members, including 5,000 children — most of whom are U.S. citizens or legal residents.

Close to half of deportation cases end in removal of the person, OCPP’s analysis found. If this pattern holds for the deportation cases pending in Oregon in 2021, it will result in about $130 million fewer dollars circulating in the economy through fewer purchases of goods and services.

The removal of immigrant Oregonians can also disrupt business activity, especially in industries that rely heavily on undocumented workers, the report said.

No industry is more at risk than Oregon’s $4.5-billion agriculture industry. Undocumented workers make up nearly half of all farm labor, as the agriculture industry finds it difficult to attract U.S.-born workers, according to OCPP.

And because rural counties depend more on agriculture than urban counties, rural counties “have a large stake in the fate of undocumented residents facing deportation,” the report said. It noted that agriculture accounts for 72 percent of the gross domestic product in Hood River County, 29 percent in Morrow County, 18 percent in Lake County, and 15 percent in Harney County.

Whether or not it ends in removal of the immigrant, a deportation proceeding can take a big financial toll on families, due to lost wages and costs related to fighting removal. An Oregon family with a member in a deportation proceeding experiences a long-term drop in annual income from about $43,000 to about $25,000, OCPP estimated.

“In addition to the emotional suffering it inflicts, deportation also plunges largely self-sustaining families into severe economic hardship,” Bauer said.

Based on the historical pattern of deportations and data on the typical make-up of households with at least one undocumented member, about 3,500 Oregon children will lose a family member to deportation in removal cases active in 2021. These children, the Center said, together will lose about $196 million in financial support throughout their childhood years as a result of the removal of a family member.

“Deportation proceedings harm families, employers, and the state economy as a whole,” said Isa Peña, Director of Strategy at Innovation Law Lab, an organization that harnesses technology, lawyers, and organizers to advance immigrant and refugee justice. “The Oregon legislature needs to take steps to address the problem.” Part of the problem, she noted, is the fact that immigrants facing deportation are not entitled to a lawyer, and few can afford one.

The report called on the Oregon legislature to enact Universal Representation, a policy that would ensure that all Oregonians in a deportation proceeding have access to a lawyer.

“No Oregonian should have to face deportation alone,” Peña said. “By providing access to a lawyer, the state can ensure a fairer process and reduce the number of wrongful deportations. And in doing so, it can reduce the harm that flows to Oregon families and our state’s economy.”

Read the report Deportation harms Oregon's economy and upends family security.