A new reposrt by the Center for American Progress says that an overhaul of U.S. immigration laws would increase the country's gross domestic product (GDP) by $1.5 trillion over the next ten years.
Providing a path to legal residence for the roughly 8 million illegal immigrants currently residing in the U.S. would lead to higher wages for both, them and other U.S. workers, increase tax revenue and result in a higher consumption by immigrants, the report concluded.
The $1.5 trillion figure is reached by a calculation that an immigration overhaul would increase U.S. GDP by 0.84% annually.
The study considered three scenarios: one where comprehensive immigration law changes are implemented; a second where only a temporary worker program is created and a third where massive deportations of illegal immigrants is pursued. The second would increase U.S. GDP by $792 billion over the next decade, while the third would cost the economy $2.6 trillion over the same period.
The report looks at the economic impact that followed the last time a significant immigration shake-up was concluded in 1986 during the Reagan administration as a basis for its findings of what would occur as a result of an overhaul of immigration laws this year.
The Center for American Progress is one of the many groups strongly pushing the administration to pursue immigration changes this year rather than waiting until 2011 after the mid-term elections in November 2010.
"The imperative is both a political one because of the elections, and a policy one because of the economics," Angela Kelley, vice president for immigration policy at the Center, said Thursday.
Immigration legislation was introduced in the House in December that has the backing of many liberals in the Democratic caucus. But given the difficulty of passing major legislation through the Senate, it is expected that any effort to tackle the immigration issue will begin there.
Given the bruising experience that the drive for sweeping health-care legislation has been for both the administration and congressional Democrats, there is some talk that they may not have the appetite for another significant fight before the November elections of 2010.