The nation needs a comprehensive immigration plan, and it is clear from a recent poll that most Americans support reforming the U.S.’s immigration system. In a new poll, nearly two-thirds of people surveyed are in favor of a measure that allows undocumented immigrants to earn citizenship over several years, while only 35 percent oppose such a plan. And President Obama is expected to “begin an all-out drive for comprehensive immigration reform, including seeking a path to citizenship” in January.
Several top Republicans have softened their views on immigration reform following November’s election, but in the first push for reform, House Republicans advanced a bill last month that would add visas for highly skilled workers while reducing legal immigration overall. Providing a road map to citizenship for the millions of undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. would have sweeping benefits for the nation, especially the economy.
Here are the top 10 reasons why the U.S. needs comprehensive immigration reform:
1. Legalizing the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States would boost the nation’s economy. It would add a cumulative $1.5 trillion to the U.S. gross domestic product—the largest measure of economic growth—over 10 years. That’s because immigration reform that puts all workers on a level playing field would create a virtuous cycle in which legal status and labor rights exert upward pressure on the wages of both American and immigrant workers. Higher wages and even better jobs would translate into increased consumer purchasing power, which would benefit the U.S. economy as a whole.
2. Tax revenues would increase. The federal government would accrue $4.5 billion to $5.4 billion in additional net tax revenue over just three years if the 11 million undocumented immigrants were legalized. And states would benefit. Texas, for example, would see a $4.1 billion gain in tax revenue and the creation of 193,000 new jobs if its approximately 1.6 million undocumented immigrants were legalized.
3. Harmful state immigration laws are damaging state economies. States that have passed stringent immigration measures in an effort to curb the number of undocumented immigrants living in the state have hurt some of their key industries, which are held back due to inadequate access to qualified workers. A farmer in Alabama, where the state legislature passed the anti-immigration law HB 56 in 2011, for example, estimated that he lost up to $300,000 in produce in 2011 because the undocumented farmworkers who had skillfully picked tomatoes from his vines in years prior had been forced to flee the state.
4. A path to citizenship would help families access health care. About a quarter of families where at least one parent is an undocumented immigrant are uninsured, but undocumented immigrants do not qualify for coverage under the Affordable Care Act, leaving them dependent on so-called safety net hospitals that will see their funding reduced as health care reforms are implemented. Without being able to apply for legal status and gain health care coverage, the health care options for undocumented immigrants and their families will shrink.
5. U.S. employers need a legalized workforce. Nearly half of agricultural workers, 17 percent of construction workers, and 12 percent of food preparation workers nationwide lacking legal immigration status. But business owners—from farmers to hotel chain owners—benefit from reliable and skilled laborers, and a legalization program would ensure that they have them.