A Pathway to Citizenship for Undocumented Immigrants Presents Opportunity to Boost U.S Economy

Ariana Jaramillo, Political Writer

Congress Faces Pressure to Include Immigration Reform in Upcoming Budget Reconciliation Bill

Currently, in the U.S., there are more than eight million undocumented immigrants waiting for a pathway to citizenship. For years, Congress has failed to provide a pathway; but a new opportunity has arrived in the upcoming 3.5 trillion dollar budget reconciliation bill which would allow Democrats to include immigration reform in the bill.

More than 700 government officials and over 50 economists have written letters to the Democratic Congress and President Biden expressing the urgency and the benefits that the passing of immigration reform would have on the struggling economy and benefit the country’s workforce.

“The U.S. workforce would be rejuvenated with a fresh wave of diverse, productive talent. Immigrants tend to possess a variety of traits that make them particularly valuable additions to the workforce. The fact that they left their country in pursuit of a better life elsewhere is already a sign of determination, confidence, initiative, focus, and entrepreneurial spirit. These are desirable traits that employers seek,” professor of Economics at CSUEB Jed DeVaro explained.

The ongoing pandemic has damaged the economy, but allowing work authorization to undocumented immigrants would, “give employers access to an expanded pool of high-quality, energetic labor that tends not to demand premium compensation. Immigrants would have access to a broader set of jobs once they are no longer undocumented,” according to DeVaro.

Labor shortages have also been a problem as a result of the pandemic. “Many employers have faced labor shortages in low-wage jobs as a consequence of COVID, in part because unemployment benefits have offered some workers as much or more money than they could make while working. New immigrant labor could jumpstart the economy by eliminating these problems of labor shortages,” he added.

Providing undocumented immigrants with work authorization could also increase tax revenue in all three levels of government, especially since it would eliminate black markets for immigrant labor. “Shrinking or eliminating black markets so that illicit transactions become legal tends to increase tax revenue. The same principle applies when states legalize marijuana, effectively eliminating a black market and replacing it with a white market in which economic activity generates considerable tax revenue,” DeVaro included.

Ultimately, providing immigrants with a pathway to citizenship can only improve the U.S. economy, so what obstacles do Democrats face in including immigration reform in the budget reconciliation bill?

The Senate parliamentarian, Elizabeth MacDonough, must decide whether or not to include immigration reform within the reconciliation bill. If included, the Democratic Senate could finally make progress in both immigration reform and economic growth.

If immigration reform is not included, it could be long before any immigration reform legislation could be passed, and the opportunity to significantly uplift the economy would slip away.