Legalizing Undocumented Workers Would Generate $1.5 Trillion: Study

Looking for new tax revenue? Try undocumented workers.

By Olsen Ebright
|  Thursday, Jan 7, 2010  |  Updated 3:17 PM PDT
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Legalizing Undocumented Workers Would Generate $1.5 Trillion: Study

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Illegal immigrant Rolando Ambrocio of Guatemala carries a bucket of dirt while working on a landscaping job.

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At a time when federal, state and local governments are scrounging for revenue, a new study out of UCLA has a bold suggestion: Legalize undocumented workers.

The move would bring an estimated $1.5 trillion (yes, that's trillion with a T) to the U.S. GDP over 10 years, according to the UCLA study.

By studying the trends following the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act, study author Raúl Hinojosa-Ojeda concluded that immigration reform would generate tax revenue, raise wages, create jobs and increase consumption.

"If we are going to create a solid recovery with good wages, we have to fix this hole that we have at the bottom of the labor market," Hinojosa-Ojeda said. "This is not about bringing in a lot of workers. This is about your neighbors and if we are better off where everybody in the economy has the ability to fight for their families and to contribute more to the economy rather than staying in the shadows."

Critics haven't started yelling "You lie," but they're close.

Ira Mehlman, of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, says tax revenue from legal immigrants working low-wage jobs would be negligible.

"They are trying to portray this as an economic shot in the arm," Mehlman told the Los Angeles Times. "But I am not sure the American public is going to buy it."

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