Immigration reform good for workers, tax collectors and sheep

Public News Service Colorado notes a new report that immigration reform could help workers, give a boost to local and national government coffers, and even help with Colorado’s surplus of shaggy sheep.

A new report on the economics of immigration reform indicates a path to legal status for undocumented workers could improve wages and working conditions for all workers. In addition, it could increase tax revenues and help to fill some jobs where workers are badly needed, according to the Immigration Policy Center (IPC), based in Washington, D.C.

One such position is sheep shearer, a niche facing a critical shortage right now in Colorado. Dan Siciliano, executive director of the Law, Economics and Business program at Stanford University Law School, says taking measures to keep foreign workers around also helps grow the economy, long-term.

“The trick is to keep the people who will work hard and invest in the United States here, still working hard, so that they might open businesses, grow restaurants.”

David Kallick, an economist with the Fiscal Policy Institute who contributed to the IPC report, says the research shows an impressive financial advantage to hauling the underground economy into the light of day – $66 billion in additional tax revenue over the next few years.

“The cost of the underground economy to taxpayers is pretty substantial. The idea is, bringing undocumented immigrants into the ‘above-ground’ economy, and making sure that they pay taxes just like everyone else.”

As director of civil rights and community action at the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, Esther Lopez agrees. She believes immigration reform could be a major step in helping all working, middle class families, many of whom are struggling right now.

“We need an immigrations system that is part of our national economic recovery program. We need immigration reform that punishes employers who ‘game’ the system to drive down wages and working conditions.”

Opponents of immigration reform worry about giving away jobs to immigrants during one of the worst job markets in generations. However, supporters point out that the current system is broken, and punishes honest employers who follow the law when it comes to hiring immigrants.

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Wendy Norris

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