Analysis: Biden economic advisers make case for extending permanent legal status to immigrants on Citizenship Day

El Paso News

Immigration activist with the advocacy group CASA rally at the White House to demand President Biden to grant citizenship for immigrants on May 26, 2021 in Washington, DC. The group is calling on the Biden Administration to pass an immigrant inclusive recovery packages that includes citizenship for immigrant essential workers. (Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — The Founding Fathers of the United States signed the Constitution on September 17, 1787 and the U.S. celebrates Constitution Day and Citizenship Day each year.

On Citizenship Day, the federal government encourages Americans to reflect on the rights and responsibilities of U.S. citizenship, while also recognizing the great lengths and extraordinary journeys it takes to become an American citizen. 

The White House Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) published a memo on Friday that promotes the economic costs and benefits of authorizing green cards to millions of undocumented immigrants. 

“The United States is often described as a nation of immigrants. With the exception of Native Americans, the vast majority of Americans are immigrants or the descendants of immigrants or enslaved people. This diversity has been celebrated for its contributions to American culture through cuisine, language, and the arts, among many other influences,” the memo begins. 

Economists say that immigrants in the U.S. are more mobile than natives when it comes to responding to local economic conditions and that immigrants bolster innovation, which is a key factor in developing living standard improvements. 

The Biden Administration says that permanent legal status is likely to increase the labor supply of unauthorized immigrants.

Nearly 73 percent of unauthorized-immigrant adults (ages 18 to 65) were employed in any given year from 2014 through 2019, the White House says, which is roughly equivalent to the employment rates of non-citizen legal residents and U.S. citizens.

This means that permanent legal status would permit this workforce to be more productive that would result in gains that could be expressed in a variety of channels that include upward social mobility.

Specifically, the memo reports that “permanent legal status would allow these currently unauthorized immigrants to pursue and accept jobs for which their skills are well-suited, rather than being restricted to particular sectors of the economy, such as agriculture, construction, and leisure and hospitality.”

Additionally, the memo argues that unauthorized immigrants have limited opportunities for job mobility and more productive employment opportunities. 

Unauthorized immigrant workers earn about 40 percent less an hour than native-born laborers, and about 35 percent less than legal immigrants. 

Researchers found a significant wage penalty for unauthorized workers that range from 4 percent to 24 percent of their hourly wage. 

The Texas RNC says the federal government’s attention should be redirected.

“Joe Biden should focus on the border crisis his failed policies created that continues to spiral out of control. Tens of thousands of illegal immigrants are living under a bridge in Del Rio under inhumane conditions and the Biden administration has barely even acknowledged it let alone come up with a plan to fix it,” says RNC Spokesperson Macarena Martinez.

The memo and statement from the RNC come as at least 12,000 Haitian migrants are camped under an international bridge in Del Rio, Texas.

The timing of the memo is significant because the Senate is set to decide on whether the immigration language recently approved in the Democrats’ reconciliation bill will pass. The bill needs only 50 Senate votes to pass.

Biden’s economic advisers say that although legalizing undocumented immigrants would raise the costs of social benefit programs, those costs would be offset by the increased taxes immigrants would pay, as well as the “positive fiscal contributions” of younger generations. 

“Though some argue that increased take-up of social programs would generate a substantial fiscal cost to the government, the productivity of the newly-legalized would likely increase, which would benefit all in the United States by expanding economic output,” write the advisers.

“Immigrants have made innumerable contributions to American business and society. However, current law confines millions of them to a life in the shadows, without the rights to be fully economically engaged or have access to foundational social protections,” the memo concludes. 

For more information on immigration reform, click here; for our complete coverage of immigration politics, click here.

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