A new study has found that legalizing the status of the 12 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States would boost the economy, creating jobs and increasing wages for native-born workers, according to a story in the Chronicle. The study, which was released January 7, was conducted by UCLA associate professor Raul Hinojosa-Ojeda and was primarily based on data following the passage of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986. The report concluded that legalizing undocumented immigrants could increase the gross domestic product by $1.5 trillion over the next ten years.
According to the Financial Times, another study by the Kauffman Foundation in 2008 found similar results: For every 100,000 immigrants, 510 of them start businesses each month, while native-born citizens start 280. The Kauffman Foundation is a Kansas City, Missouri-based nonprofit that focuses on advancing entrepreneurship and improving education.
Not surprisingly, critics of the UCLA study have already emerged. Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, argued that illegal immigrants take jobs away from American workers. "With 15 million Americans out of work, it's hard to believe that anyone would give amnesty to 12 million illegal immigrants," he said. Yet at a time when hundreds of billions of dollars are being thrown at financial institutions, in what often seems a futile effort toward stimulating the economy, legalizing undocumented workers seems a fairly inexpensive option.
Meanwhile, support for immigration reform appears to be gaining momentum on other fronts. On January 6, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops announced a national postcard campaign aimed at mobilizing Catholics for immigration reform. Many are speculating that President Obama will tackle the issue this year. If illegal immigrants were granted amnesty, many communities in the East Bay would be greatly affected. The Migration Policy Institute estimates that in Alameda County, there are roughly 88,000 undocumented immigrants.