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Comprehensive Immigration Reform Would Help U.S. Economy and Newly Legalized Aliens

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The Public Policy Institute of California (“PPIC”) published a new report regarding the likely impact of comprehensive immigration reform. The report, entitled Immigrant Legalization: Assessing the Labor Market Effects, yields both some enlightening and some potentially misleading results about the likely impact of a legalization program.  Because the PPIC report focuses on legal status acquired under current immigration law, it does not reflect the long-term benefits and gains that follow from a comprehensive immigration reform package which includes legalization.

 While the PPIC report dovetails with other reports when it concludes that legalization would not have a negative impact on native workers’ wages and employment, their findings on the wages and mobility of newly legalized aliens differ from other academic studies regarding how immigrants fare after legalization.  This difference can be attributed to the fact that PPIC looks at legalization only, and how the newly legalized are doing just 4-13 months after becoming legalized. Almost all other previous studies have taken a longer term view of their success.
PPIC relies upon data from the New Immigrant Survey (NIS), which is a sample of foreign-born individuals who acquired legal permanent resident (LPR) status between May and November 2003.  It is important to keep in mind that the NIS is not representative of the unauthorized-immigrant population as a whole.  As opposed to the individuals captured in the NIS, most unauthorized immigrants do not have a means of acquiring legal status.  Moreover, individuals in the NIS were interviewed 4-13 months after acquiring LPR status.

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