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Citizenship for Undocumented Immigrants Would Boost U.S. Economic Growth

June 14, 2021

Today, 10.2 million undocumented immigrants are living and working in communities across the United States. On average, they have lived in this country for 16 years and are parents, grandparents, and siblings to another 10.2 million family members. At the same time, it has been nearly 40 years since Congress has meaningfully reformed the U.S. immigration system, leaving a generation of individuals and their families vulnerable. Poll after poll has illustrated that the vast majority of Americans support putting undocumented immigrants on a pathway to citizenship. And as the nation emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic and looks toward the future, legalization is a key component of a just, equitable, and robust recovery.As the Biden administration and Congress craft their recovery legislation and consider how best to move the nation's policies toward a more fair, humane, and workable immigration system, the Center for American Progress and the University of California, Davis's Global Migration Center modeled the economic impacts of several proposals that are currently before Congress. Using an aggregate macro-growth simulation, the model illustrates the benefits to the whole nation from putting undocumented immigrants on a pathway to citizenship. Such legislation would increase productivity and wages—not just for those eligible for legalization, but for all American workers—create hundreds of thousands of jobs, and increase tax revenue.

Opportunity Lost: The Economic Benefit of Retaining Foreign-Born Students in Local Economies

April 3, 2016

A first-of-its kind analysis of aggregate transition rates from college to work among three groups of foreign-born college students indicates that only one group—lawful permanent residents (LPR)— are fully transitioning to work in local economies. Undocumented college students are 20 to 30 percentage points less likely than their LPR peers to find local work after graduation. Aggregate transition rates for F-1 visa holders were close to zero. Policies that increase work opportunities for F-1 visa holders and undocumented students to the same levels as their LPR peers would increase employment levels and tax revenues in nearly every state in the country.

Foreign-born College Students: How Much Could They Contribute to the US Economy?

February 25, 2016

The United States College and University system is schooling an increasing number of students from all over the world. For a very large portion of those, namely those on F1 visas and those with no documentation, the transition to the US labor market can be very difficult, if not impossible. This results in re-migration or under-employment of these highly skilled workers. We quantify the size of these populations and the employment and wage losses to US states and local economies from the constraints imposed by immigration status on those students. We suggest that some recent policies that have increased legal access to jobs for these two categories, such as the extension of optional practical training (OPT) in 2008 and the temporary status granted by DACA to undocumented college educated in 2012 may have increased their college to local jobs transition rates. There is scope for larger gains when adopting policies that would substantially increase the labor perspectives in the US of F1 and undocumented college students. We suggest some local policies that could prove to be innovative ways to strengthen local economies and link immigration policies to local economic incentives.

Rethinking the Effects of Immigration on Wages: New Data and Analysis from 1990-2004

October 1, 2006

A crucial question in the current debate over immigration is what impact immigrants have on the wages of native-born workers. At first glance, it might seem that the simple economics of supply and demand provides the answer: immigrants increase the supply of labor; hence they should decrease the wages of native workers. However, the issue is more complicated than this for two reasons that have been largely overlooked.

Immigrants, Skills, and Wages: Measuring the Economic Gains from Immigration

March 1, 2006

Foreign-born workers do not substitute perfectly for, and therefore do not compete with, most native-born workers. Rather, the complementary nature of the skills, occupations, and abilities of foreign-born workers increases the productivity of natives, stimulates investment, and enhances the choices available to consumers.