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RELEASE: Citizenship for Undocumented Immigrants Would Boost U.S. Economic Growth, New Report Finds

Washington, D.C. — Putting undocumented immigrants on a pathway to citizenship would increase U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) by up to $1.7 trillion over the next decade, raise wages for all Americans, and create hundreds of thousands of new jobs, advancing the country’s economic recovery. This is the main finding of a new report released today by the Center for American Progress in collaboration with the University of California, Davis (UC Davis) Global Migration Center.

Currently, 10.2 million undocumented immigrants are living and working in communities across the United States. On average, they have lived in the country for 16 years and are parents, grandparents, and siblings to another 10.2 million family members. At the same time, it has been nearly 40 years since Congress has meaningfully reformed the U.S. immigration system, leaving a generation of individuals and their families vulnerable.

As the Biden administration and Congress craft their recovery legislation and consider how best to move the nation’s policies toward a more fair, humane, and workable immigration system, CAP and the UC Davis Global Migration Center modeled the economic impacts of several proposals that are currently before Congress.

Using an aggregate macro-growth simulation, the report looks at four potential scenarios, where Congress grants a pathway to citizenship to: all undocumented immigrants; undocumented immigrants working in essential occupations; Dreamers and those eligible for Temporary Protected Status (TPS); and a combination of Dreamers, those eligible for TPS, and essential workers.

For each one of these scenarios, the study finds that during the next decade:

  1. Providing a pathway to citizenship for all undocumented immigrants in the United States would boost the national GDP by $1.7 trillion and create 438,800 new jobs over the next decade. It would benefit all workers.
    • Five years after implementation, those eligible for legalization would experience annual wages that are higher by $4,300.
    • Ten years after implementation, those annual wages would be $14,000 higher, and all other American workers would see their annual wages increase by $700.
  2. Providing a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers and TPS-eligible individuals under the American Dream and Promise Act would increase the national GDP by $799 billion over 10 years and create 285,400 new jobs.
    • Five years after implementation, those eligible for legalization would experience annual wages that are higher by $4,300.
    • Ten years after implementation, those annual wages would be $16,800 higher, and all other American workers would see their annual wages increase by $400.
  3. Providing a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrant essential workers would boost the GDP by a total of $989 billion over 10 years and create 203,200 new jobs.
    • Five years after implementation, those eligible for legalization would experience annual wages that are higher by $4,300.
    • Ten years after implementation, those annual wages would be $11,800 higher, and all other American workers would see their annual wages increase by $300.
  4. Providing a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers, TPS-eligible individuals, and essential workers would boost the GDP by a total of $1.5 trillion over 10 years and create 400,800 new jobs.
    • Five years after implementation, those eligible for legalization would experience annual wages that are higher by $4,300.
    • Ten years after implementation, those annual wages would be $13,500 higher, and all other American workers would see their annual wages increase by $600.

“Combining data and well-established economic modeling, we clearly find that putting undocumented immigrants on a pathway to citizenship would benefit the nation’s economy. These significant results are generated by the direct wage and productivity increases produced by legalization of undocumented workers; the response of demand and business investments to their larger productivity; and, over the following 10 years, the higher education that young undocumented are predicted to attain,” said Giovanni Peri, professor of economics at UC Davis, director of the university’s Global Migration Center, and co-author of the report.

“As the findings above show, creating a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants not only is the right thing to do but also would be a substantial stimulus to the U.S. economy,” said Nicole Prchal Svajlenka, associate director for research on the Immigration Policy team at CAP. “Undocumented immigrants are critical to the nation’s social infrastructure—a fact that has become even more widely understood amid the coronavirus pandemic—and a pathway to citizenship is a key component of a just, equitable, and robust recovery.”

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For more information or to speak with an expert, please contact Claudia Montecinos at .