With President Obama gearing up to tackle immigration reform, an immigration think tank is urging him to provide this country's estimated 12 million illegal immigrants a path to citizenship, insisting that it would help turn around the troubled economy.
In a new report, the Immigration Policy Center, which bills itself as a "think tank dedicated to research and analysis about the contributions made to America by immigrants," holds that passage of two immigration bills that died on Capital Hill recently would have helped to solve many problems.
(Click here to see the report.)
The group believes that Congress's failure to pass the bills -- which were floated in 2006 and 2007 -- has cost the government up to $66 billion in tax revenue because illegal immigrants tend to work under-the-table jobs. The group says undocumented workers constitute about 5 percent of the entire U.S. workforce, and maintains that immigration reform would enable immigrants to earn more, and therefore spend more.
The Washington D.C.-based think tank released the report and held a telephone press conference on Monday.
"Enfranchised consumers are better consumers," said Dan Siciliano, the group's senior research fellow and the executive director of the Program in Law, Economics, and Business at Stanford Law School. "People are more willing to buy a home if they have more certainty about their future."
The group says it would like to see a reform package that legalizes as many of the 12 million people as possible. Their preferred bill also would require people to come forward "out of the shadows," pay taxes and back taxes, prove they do not have a serious criminal record, and share their employment history.
To discourage the "underground economy," Immigration Policy Center spokeswoman Angela Kelley said the preferred bill also would require employers to use an electronic documentation verification system connected to a government database.
What's more, Kelley said the group wants to see the United States refresh its inventory on the nation's need for unskilled workers. She said the federal government's current annual figure -- 5,000 -- is too low.
The researchers said it is also impractical to believe 12 million people can be deported.
"People don't just vanish," said David Kallick, a senior fellow at the Fiscal Policy Institute. "It's just not real. Mass deportation is just not going to happen."
The researchers did acknowledge that illegal immigrants sometimes compete for jobs with U.S.-born unskilled laborers, but said the evidence showing harm to U.S.-born workers is "negligible."
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