Immigration Reform Is a Critical Part of Our Economic Recovery

We know the devastating impact our broken immigration system is having on Nebraska families and communities. According to a new report, reform is also urgent for economic reasons.

Raising the Floor for American Workers: The Economic Benefits of Comprehensive Immigration Reform – released jointly by the Immigration Policy Center and the Center for American Progress and prepared by Dr. Raul Hinojosa-Ojeda of UCLA – shows that the economic benefits of immigration reform would be dramatic.

The report estimates that immigration reform with a pathway to legal status for currently unauthorized immigrants as well as the creation of flexible limits on future immigration would:

  • yield at least $1.5 trillion to U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) over 10 years, and
  • boost wages for native-born and newly legalized immigrant workers alike.

By contrast, a mass deportation would likely result in $2.6 trillion in lost GDP over 10 years, not including the actual cost of deportation, as well as widespread job losses throughout the U.S. economy.

Interestingly, another study released by the conservative-leaning Cato Institute in August 2009 came to similar conclusions. Restriction or Legalization?: Measuring the Economic Benefits of Immigration Reform found that comprehensive reform would add roughly $80 billion to the U.S. economy per year.

According to the new study, the historical experience of legalization under the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act indicates that “comprehensive immigration reform would raise wages, increase consumption, create jobs, and generate additional tax revenue. Even though IRCA was implemented during an economic recession characterized by high unemployment, it still helped raise wages and spurred increases in educational, home, and small-business investments by newly legalized immigrants.”

The report finds that immigration reform that creates a legalization process for undocumented workers and a flexible visa program for future immigration based on U.S. labor demands “not only raises the floor for all American workers, but is an economic necessity.”  These are compelling economic reasons to move away from the current “vicious cycle” of enforcement-only policies with a negative economic impact toward a “virtuous cycle” in which legal status and labor rights raise the floor for all workers and help lay the foundation for “robust, just, and widespread economic growth.”

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