Between one-third to half of all undocumented immigrants could gain legal status and obtain a green card if a series of yet-to-be introduced Republican piecemeal proposals become law, according to a new report released on Tuesday by the non-partisan public policy organization, National Foundation for American Policy.
The report is the first attempt to estimate the number of people that would be eligible for lawful permanent residence (a precursor to citizenship), if a House proposal were favored over the Senate’s comprehensive immigration bill. Because “no legislative text exists” on a specific legalization bill, the author Stuart Anderson based his calculations on what House Republican leaders have already publicly supported. Anderson argued that those most likely to be eligible for green cards are also those who have the “strongest connection to the United States and least likely to leave voluntarily.” Those people include parents of American-born children (3.1 million to 4.4 million), spouses of American citizens or lawful permanent resident spouses (800,000 to 1.5 million), and so-called DREAMers, or undocumented youths who were brought to the United States as children (40,000 to 45,000). Together, the categories add up to 4.4 million to 6.5 million undocumented immigrants.
For the sake of comparison, a Congressional Budget Office report estimates that the Senate’s comprehensive immigration bill would likely allow eight million undocumented immigrants to become eligible for lawful permanent residence.
Still, granting citizenship would in fact provide the biggest economic boon. Naturalized citizens earn 11 percent more than legal noncitizens. One report found that in a scenario in which immigrants are granted immediate citizenship, the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) would grow by an additional $1.4 trillion over a ten-year period. Immigrants who are granted legal status, but are ineligible for citizenship, would also grow the economy, but the cumulative gain in U.S. GDP would be $832 billion.