Jared Polis: Debt Ceiling Negotiations Should Include Immigration Reform

As deficit reduction discussions continue this week to raise the debt ceiling, Congressman Jared Polis (D-CO) wrote to President Obama and Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) calling on them to consider immigration reform as a way of raising revenues without raising taxes. Polis wrote:

“Studies from groups across the political spectrum have proven the economic and fiscal benefits of comprehensive immigration reform. By requiring illegal immigrants to register with the government, pay fees and back taxes, and correct their status, we can drastically expand our tax base. A report by the Center for American Progress found that passing comprehensive immigration reform would generate $4.5 to $5.4 billion in additional net tax revenue over three years. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office scored the bi-partisan 2007 comprehensive immigration reform bill that was proposed in the Senate as increasing federal revenues by $15 billion over the 2008–2012 period and by $48 billion over the 2008–2017 period. […]

Just like our budget deficit, immigration reform is an issue that we cannot afford to ignore. Bipartisan proposals that are tough, fair, and practical have garnered support from across the ideological spectrum in Congress, as well as from President Bush and the current administration. Comprehensive immigration reform would clearly help us reduce our deficit and debt, and would do so without raising tax rates. Therefore I strongly encourage you to include an immigration reform package as part of the larger compromise.”

While forwarding a comprehensive bipartisan immigration reform bill in time to raise the debt ceiling is not feasible, Polis highlighted an important issue. As Congress pursues austerity cuts despite a struggling economy, many immigration bills have been proposed that would lower the deficit and boost our GDP.


Alternatively, if no immigration reform bills pass and enforcement proposals are advanced, it could significantly impact our deficit and depress our economy. A Center for American Progress analysis found the average cost of deportation per person is $23,148, and tracking, detaining, and deporting every undocumented immigrant could total up to $285 billion. This figure does not take into account lost revenue and economic production, a cost of up to $2.5 trillion, while immigration reform could raise the GDP by an additional $1.6 trillion.

Under the status quo, Obama has deported nearly 1 million people since taking office.

Sean Savett