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The Economic Boost of Legalization

El Diario La Prensa, Editorial, Staff Posted: Apr 14, 2009

As President Obama moves to put immigration reform on the table, questions have emerged about his timing. But the more the nation delays introducing a path to legalization for the undocumented immigrants here, the longer we are without a critical foothold towards economic recovery.

Immigrants have fueled the growth and prosperity of the United States, from its inception as a nation. This is no less the case today. Studies from the University of Nebraska at Omaha to Adelphi University in Long Island have shown the net benefit of immigrant contributionsincluding the undocumentedto cities throughout the country.

Through legalization, that potential would be increased.

Researchers point to the effects of prior immigration reform in 1986. Then, the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) helped transition many undocumented workers out of an underground status. In the years following the Act, these workers saw their average hourly wages increase by 15 percent. Higher wages generated more city, state and federal tax revenue and more purchasing of goods and services, which created more jobs. This, during the recession of the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Legalization also has a broader, positive effect on the workforce. It eliminates the vulnerability of undocumented workers to employer exploitation, and thus the ability of employers to down-press wages in certain industries. And with a legalized status, immigrant workers are more likely to start businesses and make investments that economically sustain communities.

Related Articles:

Immigration Advocates Gear up for Reform

'Trade-Off' on Immigration Reform

Immigration Reform Back on the Agenda

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