Do we need more evidence of the fact that Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR) will benefit the country? For those that are unconvinced, the new report brought out by the Center for American Progress and Immigration Policy Center should help point our how crucial CIR is to the future of the U.S. economy.
The report “Raising the Floor for American Workers: The Economic Benefits of Comprehensive Immigration Reform” concludes that immigration reform would have a positive ripple effect which would in turn boost the economy. According to the National Immigration Forum
“The program would have economic ripple effects that would, when compared to the alternative policy of mass deportation promoted by immigrant restrictions, have a net economic benefit of as much as $4.1 trillion for the U.S. economy over 10 years.”
Some of the consequences of reform include raised worker’s wages which subsequently “raise the wage floor” for everyone, a willingness to invest, more income, more spending and more taxes – all of which will result in growth of gross domestic product by approximately $1.5 trillion over a ten-year period. The figure comes from findings of surveys conducted after the passing of the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) of 1986 which granted legal status to 3 million immigrants. Research shows that those undocumented immigrants who were legalized as per the IRCA (which was also implemented during an economic recession similar to the present one) went on to better jobs and higher wages. Many further invested in higher education which increased their skill level and socio-economic mobility, positively impacting the economy. Where the IRCA failed was in creating a flexible policy for future immigration, leading to the present situation in which the government spends large amounts of resources on an inefficient and costly system of enforcement.
“The number of unauthorized immigrants in the United States has increased dramatically since the early 1990s despite equally dramatic increases in the amount of money the federal government spends on immigration enforcement…The U.S. Border Patrol says its annual budget has increased by 714 percent since 1992, from $326.2 million in fiscal year 1992 to $2.7 billion in fiscal 2009.”
In addition to being expensive, it is evident that the current enforcement-only policy of the government is inefficient, and has led to a damaging of the economy. The current policy seems to be heading towards a scenario of “mass deportation”, which the report analyzes as one of three avenues through which the government can approach immigration policy. The other two scenarios are “comprehensive immigration reform” and a “program for temporary workers”. While mass deportation would cause a loss of $2.6 trillion in gross domestic product over a 10 year period, the worker program would lead to a gain of $792 billion. Full legalization of existing immigrants along with new, flexible legal limits on permanent and temporary immigration is the best scenario, leading to $1.5 trillion in gross domestic product growth over the next ten years.
Hinojosa-Ojeda explains his calculation for “full legalization”,
“All immigrant workers in this scenario have full labor rights, which results in higher wages – and higher worker productivity – for all workers in industries where large numbers of immigrants are employed. As wage and productivity levels rise, the U.S. economy’s demand for new immigrant workers actually declines over time as the market shrinks for easily exploited, low-wage workers…The higher earning power of newly legalized workers translates into an increase in the net personal income of $30 to $36 billion, which would generate $4.5 to $5.4 billion in additional net tax revenue. Moreover, an increase in personal income of this scale would generate consumer spending to support 750,000 to 900,000 jobs…”
The report demonstrates that the economic argument can no longer be used as an excuse to avoid immigration reform, and poses a stiff challenge to the mythical notion that legalizing undocumented workers will increase unemployment. Instead it helps to drive home the pressing need for the government to enact comprehensive immigration reform. In an article by New American Media, Benjamin Johnson, executive director of the American Immigration Council, says,
“I think there are two very important things about this report. One certainly is that it shines a spotlight on the potential for a very large impact on our economy in a time when we need it. Even in Washington D.C., $1.5 trillion is a lot of money. But the report also reminds us of where the focus of an immigration reform effort ought to be, and that is about how do we provide benefits to the American economy and to the American worker.”
Momentum for immigration reform is building in 2010. On December 15th, Rep. Gutierrez unveiled CIR ASAP in the House, a historical bill that outlines progressive solutions to our immigration policy crisis, and early this year, Sen. Schumer is expected to introduce a bill in the Senate. You can do your bit to urge Congress to support immigration reform leading to a healthier economy and more due process and human rights for all.
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