In the coming days the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) will issue a “score” (price tag) on the Senate immigration bill. Many expect that they will come up with a number that shows we gain more than we spend by reforming our immigration laws. However, at this point, the most expansive scenario contemplated by the CBO is focused on future flows of immigrants into the United States and does not include the economic benefits stemming for creating a pathway to legal status and eventual U.S. citizenship for the millions of unauthorized immigrants already living in the country. If the CBO adopts this sort of approach in scoring the immigration reform bill they could miss the economic benefits associated with legalization, which are likely to be substantial believe many economists.
Previous immigration reform proposals in 2006 and 2007 evaluated by the CBO showed that revamping the legal immigration system would result in a boost to the economy. However, the fiscal and economic impact of legalizing the undocumented population (which much of the specialized literature shows would be positive) was not adequately addressed then either.
Immigrants, be they newly arrived through legal channels or newly empowered through legalization—do not simply pay income taxes and consume public benefits. They are workers who add value to the economy through what they produce. They are consumers and entrepreneurs who create jobs through their purchasing power and the businesses they establish, both of which sustain U.S. jobs and generate new streams of tax revenue.
Should CBO keep all of these variables in mind as it scores the immigration reform bill now making its way through the Senate?
What do you believe the economic impact of immigration reform might be on the U.S. economy?