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RELEASE: A Pathway to Citizenship and Economic Growth Can—and Should—Be Done Through the Budget Reconciliation Process

Washington, D.C.— A new column released today by the Center for American Progress stresses that the inclusion of a pathway to citizenship in the budget reconciliation process—as Congress considers all avenues for legalization—can and should be done and will contribute to the nation’s economic recovery.

Last week, the Senate Committee on the Budget, under Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-VT), released a draft of its $6 trillion reconciliation budget blueprint, which includes $126 billion to put immigrants on a pathway to citizenship. While the proposal is only the start of the reconciliation process, the blueprint’s inclusion of immigration is an important step toward winning congressional passage of legalization.

As CAP has long argued, putting undocumented immigrants on a pathway to citizenship would bring significant benefits to America’s economy as a whole—from increased GDP and higher wages for all  workers to the creation of hundreds of thousands of permanent new jobs. Putting Dreamers, those eligible for Temporary Protected Status (TPS), and essential workers—including farmworkers—on a pathway to citizenship, as the Senate Budget Committee proposes, would add a cumulative $1.5 trillion to U.S. GDP over a decade and create just more than 400,000 new jobs. By the end of a decade after passage, all Americans would see higher wages by an annual $600.

The column also describes the strong precedent for the inclusion of legalization in a budget reconciliation package. In 2005, the Republican-controlled Senate passed a version of what ultimately became the Deficit Reduction Act through reconciliation, including the process to “recapture” permanent employment-based immigrant visas (i.e., green cards) not used in previous fiscal years, up to 90,000 visas per year.

No matter what the ultimate reconciliation package and pathway to citizenship provisions look like, the benefits to the economy and people across the nation would be substantial. On both the budgetary effect and the “merely incidental” Byrd rule test, legalization qualifies. Even with the big economic gains that accrue over time, in the immediate, legalization increases costs to the federal government, mainly as new green card holders become eligible for benefits and services. The Congressional Budget Office, for example, scored the 10-year cost of passing H.R. 6, the American Dream and Promise Act, to put Dreamers and those eligible for TPS on a pathway to citizenship, at $42.5 billion over a decade in on-budget changes.

“Over the next few months, Congress has the opportunity to take a bold step toward ensuring both a robust and an equitable recovery by including a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants in the budget reconciliation process. Doing so would mean big benefits for people all across the nation and big benefits for the economy as a whole,” said Philip E. Wolgin, acting vice president of Immigration Policy at the Center for American Progress.

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