Everyone can win with immigration reform – here’s how
Common sense immigration reform is a critical priority to securing our nation’s economic future and has strong bipartisan support. The White House and congressional leadership have time and time again assured us that it is a top priority, but have continued to drag their feet on a bipartisan solution that would be a win-win for everyone. The one and only test for the veracity of their assurances is action, not words.
It’s time to pass the Build Back Better Act, in whatever form it takes, with provisions that provide pathways to citizenship for undocumented immigrants in the U.S.
When we say everyone would benefit, we mean everyone. One analysis showed that including pathways to citizenship in the reconciliation bill would add $121 billion to the economy per year, including an additional $31 billion annually in federal, state and local taxes. Americans see and understand the economic contributions of immigrants: a bipartisan poll of voters in 11 battleground states and 70 competitive congressional districts showed 3 to 1 support for including pathways to citizenship in the reconciliation bill. And, support was strong across the political spectrum, including majorities of Trump voters and self-identified conservatives.
We all know that our nation is experiencing an unprecedented labor shortage — currently, the U.S. has 11 million jobs open that need hardworking and loyal employees. Passing common-sense immigration reform Congress will lay the foundation for an equitable economic recovery that includes a diverse labor force often taken for granted but deeply integrated into the U.S. economy. With enough workers across all sectors, businesses could meet the demand for products and services and prices would go down, helping consumers across the board.
Immigrants have already proven that they will step up when our country needs them the most. During the COVID-19 pandemic — despite being among the hardest hit by the health and economic impacts — an estimated 5.2 million undocumented immigrants have formed the backbone of our essential workforce as agricultural workers sanitation and cleaning staff; packers, stockers and shippers of essential goods and health home health and personal care aides.
Imagine the economic growth that would come with a pathway to citizenship. Immigrants who have waited for a generation for legalization and citizenship would be able to live and work in the U.S., continue to pay taxes as they always have, and raise their children without fear of a knock on the door from ICE.
Already, with $1.3 trillion in spending power, immigrants have sparked the demand for goods and services that create and maintain jobs. They add nearly $2 trillion to GDP, pay over $492 billion in taxes each year and are more likely to start a new business, providing about 8 million jobs for U.S. workers. Without immigrants, states — including those in the Rust Belt which have seen population declines — could struggle to maintain their populations and revive their economies.
The two of us don’t agree on a lot. One of us is a committed Republican, the founder of SkyMall, and a former Republican state senator in Arizona who got his political start by toppling a Senate president who legislated extreme anti-immigrant policies. The other has a wealth of experience on budget reconciliation bills while on Capitol Hill and in the Clinton White House and presently leads a national Latino civil rights and advocacy organization. Despite our diverse backgrounds, we believe a path to citizenship for some 11 million undocumented immigrants already living in the U.S. and making vital contributions to our economy is a critical priority to secure our nation’s economic future and cannot be ignored.
It’s time for action. The good news: immigration reform is politically popular, morally right, good for business and key to our nation’s economic recovery. If we are serious about addressing America’s labor shortage, inflation and keeping families together, we must pass common-sense immigration reform without further delay.
There is a historic opportunity before Senate leaders and the Biden administration through Build Back Better, but it remains to be seen if they will match real action to their words.
Janet Murguía is the president and CEO of UnidosUS, previously known as NCLR (National Council of La Raza), the nation’s largest Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization.
Bob Worsley is the founder of SkyMall, a former Republican state senator, and co-chair of the American Business Immigration Coalition, which represents more than 1,200 CEOs and employers.
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