As a comprehensive immigration reform bill hangs in the balance on Capitol Hill, a new Bipartisan Policy Center study shows an aggressive overhaul could boost the country's anemic economic recovery.
The report found that during the next 20 years, immigration would bolster the country's economic growth by 4.8 percent. The report shows that immigration reform would reduce the country's deficits by $1.2 trillion during this time, as young, working immigrants take jobs and pay taxes.
The report pushes back against some anti-reform advocates who argue immigration reform would take jobs away from able-bodied Americans and drive wages down. Instead, the report's authors argue immigration reform would actually lead to a .5 percent real wage increase by 2033 and help some sectors like construction recover. The report found that residential housing construction would increase by $69 billion a year.
"If you want to be on the right side of the paramount issue, you want to be on the right side of immigration," said Douglas Holtz-Eakin, who spoke on a panel about the study Tuesday. Holtz-Eakin, president of the American Action Network , a center-right policy advocacy group, and the former director of the Congressional Budget Office, said immigration reform is "good policy" and therefore, "good politics" despite what some Republicans in the House of Representatives believe.
The Bipartisan Policy Center report was revealed at the Chamber of Commerce, before an audience of business leaders from more than 40 states who flew into D.C. to lobby Capitol Hill on the benefits of immigration reform. More than 600 people are expected to visit more than 150 congressional offices, many of them GOP-controlled to push for immigration reform.
Nationally, Republicans have already begun looking for ways to appeal to Latino voters. The Republican National Committee announced Monday it would begin building grass roots operations in Hispanic neighborhoods ahead of the 2014 midterm election as a way to win the presidency in 2016.
In the House of Representatives, however, carefully drawn congressional districts have segmented the population so much that few Republican members of Congress have a Latino population greater than 10 percent in their districts. In those districts, immigration lacks the urgency it needs to consume the focus of a member. Business leaders hope that by tying immigration reform the economy, voters in many GOP districts who are fixated on jobs will begin to pour on the pressure.
While the Senate passed its immigration bill in June, which included a path to citizenship for the country's 11 million immigrants who entered illegally, the House has been slower to pass new immigration measures. House Judiciary Chairman Rep. Bob Goodlatte, has said the House will move immigration bills one at a time rather than as one omnibus bill. And so far, the focus has been on strengthening border security and employment verification systems like E-verify, which tracks the legal status of workers applying for jobs.