Bipartisan Policy Center: Immigration Reform Would Grow Economy

Here’s the latest sign of a growing consensus on common-sense immigration reform: a recent study from the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) projects a very positive economic outcome if something like the Senate version of comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) eventually becomes law. [See Immigration Reform: Implications For Growth, Budgets, and Housing, Bipartisan Policy Center, Oct.2013.]

What’s significant here is that BPC stands largely above the fray, as an organization founded by four former Senate Majority Leaders, from both parties: Howard Baker (R-TN), Tom Daschle (D-SD), Bob Dole (R-KS), and George Mitchell (D-ME). BPC’s Immigration Task Force, which produced the study, is likewise chaired by four political luminaries from both sides of the aisle: Haley Barbour (R-MS), Ed Rendell (D-PA), Henry Cisneros (D-TX), and Condoleeza Rice (R-CA) – none of them shrinking violets, and all of them known for having strong personalities and political convictions. In other words, it’s the kind of group one might expect to have lively – and principled – differences of opinion. Thus, it’s important to note on what they actually agree.

Among the findings of BPC’s immigration study, the approach taken by the Senate bill would:

  • boost average economic growth by 0.24 percent per year from fiscal year (FY) 2014 to FY33. According to BPC, increasing the size of the labor force and the overall population would raise GDP by 2.8 percent by FY23, and by 4.8 percent by FY33, compared to the expected level of GDP in the absence of immigration reform.
  • spur additional demand in the housing market “as new immigrants enter the economy and form households, accelerating the current housing recovery and fueling the growth in this sector of the economy.” According to BPC’s analysis, enactment of a Senate-style CIR measure would boost average spending on residential construction by about $68 billion per year, from FY14 to FY33.
  • reduce the federal deficit significantly “by increasing economic growth and adding a significant influx of younger people to the population,” leading to a cumulative deficit reduction of $180 billion in the first ten years, and $990 billion in the second – an average annual reduction of about $60 billion.
  • restore demographic balance to an aging society that threatens to become top-heavy with pensioners as Baby Boomers retire. BPC notes that “the addition of millions of new, younger workers would increase the ratio of workers to retirees and help our country respond to the fiscal challenges associated with an aging population.”

To those closely tracking the politics of immigration reform, the study is especially interesting, because the woman who directed the BPC study – Rebecca Tallent – was just hired to advise House Speaker John Boehner on immigration policy. [See Boehner Hires ex-McCain Chief of Staff to Lead House Immigration Efforts, by Russell Berman, The Hill, 02.Dec.2013.] As chief of staff to Senator John McCain, The Hill notes, Ms. Tallent “was deeply involved in efforts to pass immigration reform in 2006 and 2007.” Many observers take this as a sign that Speaker Boehner plans to tackle immigration reform when the House returns in January for the second session of the 113th Congress. Having chosen a bipartisan pragmatist as his new immigration advisor, Speaker Boehner seems to have increased his chances of forging an immigration deal with which both sides can live, somewhere in the political center.

The BPC study is worth reading in its own right, but it certainly takes on added significance given the recent personnel change in Speaker Boehner’s office.

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