May 7th, 2013
09:54 AM ET

The economic case for immigration reform

By Global Public Square staff

The latest numbers show slow growth in the United States. That's bad for jobs, income – it's even bad for those worried about the deficit because it means lower tax revenues. And it has prompted a revival of the partisan debate about what to do about it.

Well, there's one idea out there that could have support from both parties. A study out last week suggests there is one very simple way to increase tax revenue, expand GDP, and create jobs – all at the same time. What's more, Congress is already weighing it: it's called immigration reform.

How and why? Well, a new paper from the left-leaning Center for American Progress actually calculates the economic impact of immigration reform. Take a look.

The study outlines three scenarios. In the first, all of America's 11 million undocumented immigrants are granted not just legal status, but also citizenship, right away. What happens? Over the course of ten years, GDP expands by an additional $1.4 trillion dollars; an additional 203,000 jobs are generated on average every year. And tax revenues increase by an additional $184 billion over the course of a decade.

These are huge jumps. Now, granted, there are a number of hurdles towards granting citizenship. So the study highlights a second scenario. Here, undocumented immigrants are granted legal status, but it takes five years to become citizens. Look at the gains – GDP expands by an additional $1.1 trillion over the ten year period. Jobs and tax revenues increase as well.

More from CNN: Immigration plan should go further

The third scenario proposes that undocumented immigrants are not granted citizenship during the ten years of the study's projections. Instead, they are only granted legal status. Even here, GDP expands by an additional $832 billion over ten years. An average of 121,000 extra jobs are added every year. And tax revenues grow by an additional $109 billion.

How does this happen? The study’s authors make the case that legalizing undocumented workers brings them into the formal economy. Now they have to pay income taxes, social security, and health care taxes and all those other things you see on your wage stubs. It also gives them access to many more jobs, and at higher wages. These gains then go on to have ripple effects across the economy, boosting GDP growth.

Critics often point out that if illegal immigrants become citizens, they become a burden on the system, impacting Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. But these arguments ignore basic economics. Immigrants with legal papers are transformed into contributing members of society. And access to society's services also makes them safer, healthier, and more productive.

This isn't just a left wing argument. On the right, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, director of the Congressional Budget Office under George W. Bush, and John McCain's economic advisor during his presidential campaign, recently pointed out that immigration reform could "raise the pace of economic growth by nearly one percentage point in the near term, and increase GDP per capita by $1,500."

A recent Pew survey found that only 51 percent of Americans think it's essential for the president and Congress to act on immigration reform this year. Compare that with the 70 percent of Americans who say that Congress must pass a deficit reduction deal this year.

The irony is... the two are actually linked. A wealth of data now shows that immigration reform will lead to deficit reduction. And the sooner we act, the greater the gains for the economy.


soundoff (143 Responses)
  1. Dean

    Immigration reform -– A law that would give 6 months jail time to the CEO/Owner/individual and personnel director for every illegal alien that is hired. Hire 6 of them and do 3 years total...............Could do the same for people who rent to illegal aliens..............................Problem solved.

    May 9, 2013 at 2:24 pm | Reply
  2. m123

    Of course, this assumes there won't be anyone on welfare, or food stamps, etc.
    Also, these lower income immigrants are going to still be using the Emergency Rooms except in sanctuary states that will put them under Obamacare at citizen taxpayer expense.

    All in all, another dim witted article written by an Obama drone pandering to the Dem agenda and published on CNN, which used to be a news organization but now is happy being a cheerleader for Obama.

    Pathetic

    May 9, 2013 at 3:22 pm | Reply
  3. J98

    Baloney. Millions are already here and have been. After amnesty they will sneak more family in. Government math sure is calculated using strange formulas.

    May 9, 2013 at 3:55 pm | Reply
  4. revolting peasant

    I have better ideas for immigration reform:
    1) If you come to this country to get an advanced degree, you are automatically given legal status and encouraged to stay.
    2) If you deposit $1M in a US bank, you are given legal status.
    3) We sell citizenship for $250K. If you can put that kind of change together, we want you to live here.
    4) We also need a domestic worker program where one can write-off domestic help if one pays domestic help legally and provides health insurance

    May 9, 2013 at 4:35 pm | Reply
    • CharlieSeattle

      @revolting peasant

      1) only if following existing immigration laws.
      2) only if following existing immigration laws.
      3) only if following existing immigration laws.
      4)No welfare tax breaks for the rich at the expense of the rest of American taxpayers.

      "Bernie" Madoff, Is that you? I did not think you had internet connection in prison!

      May 9, 2013 at 6:33 pm | Reply
  5. CharlieSeattle

    The "LEFT LEANING" study posted by a "LEFT LEANING" CNN is a FRAUD!!

    Net cost to American taxpayers: $6.3 TRILLION dollars

    http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2013/05/the-fiscal-cost-of-unlawful-immigrants-and-amnesty-to-the-us-taxpayer

    May 9, 2013 at 6:25 pm | Reply
  6. Stephen R. hazen

    Man just think if we allowed all of people in that wanted in it would save us $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ You jack ass

    May 9, 2013 at 6:46 pm | Reply
  7. petroskies

    morons that in case the illegal immigrants were people with some kind of degree or skills , why that people don't send back all their studies to mexico and for sure mexico love keep that people in the country, but the horrible true are most of these illegal immigrants are illiterate you know moron no degree no skill is a big favor to any country when can send they kind of citizen to here, where they will go to enjoy the Obama care benefits in change for some votes.

    May 9, 2013 at 7:13 pm | Reply
  8. Just one of those citizens

    Now more than ever is the time to get rid of these people and to stop any more from coming every benefit they and their children receive needs to be terminated.

    May 9, 2013 at 8:15 pm | Reply
  9. sumguy

    A illegal day laborer makes about 60 to 80 bucks a day cash, now if that person had pay taxes of lets say 28%.. Guess what, you are at or below the poverty line and qualify for benefits and programs that cost more than the taxes that individual pays. So who really does this legislation really benefit?

    May 9, 2013 at 9:09 pm | Reply
  10. Katie

    The government seems to have money when they want to go to war and to support other country's. How about using that money right here on our soils? We'd have even more money if we stopped allowing citizenship to the children of illegal criminals and giving them free healthcare and educations...

    May 10, 2013 at 6:04 am | Reply
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