President Joe Biden’s pledge to achieve a path to citizenship for the roughly 11 million unauthorized immigrants in the United States has revived a long-lasting debate about who should be granted a pathway to citizenship. Those who argue against immigrant regularization tend to dominate the discussion using unproven claims about the potential incentives for others to arrive without documentation — often overlooking the economic benefits of regularizing unauthorized immigrants. Providing legal status, and ultimately citizenship, to these immigrants is good for economic growth, tax collection, and job creation.
To provide empirical evidence that can inform the debate, this report provides estimates of the economic impacts of granting citizenship to different groups, assuming different pathways specified in stand-alone legislation currently being discussed in Congress. We estimate the economic impacts of regularization and citizenship under four possible scenarios currently being discussed in the House and Senate: (1) regularizing all unauthorized workers, (2) regularizing only unauthorized essential workers, (3) regularizing only unauthorized workers with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), and (4) regularizing workers with Temporary Protected Status (TPS).
- Providing citizenship to all unauthorized workers would generate an additional $1.5 trillion in national GDP cumulated over 10 years.
- In comparison, providing regularization and citizenship to only unauthorized essential workers would generate $1.2 trillion, reducing the potential 10-year GDP gain by $274 billion.
- Limiting a path to citizenship only to DACA or TPS workers would drastically reduce the potential 10-year gain in GDP; legislation that included only DACA would lead to a $112 billion gain in cumulative GDP, and legislation that included only TPS workers would lead to just over half of that ($62 billion).
- Providing citizenship to all unauthorized workers would result in $367 billion in cumulative new tax revenues because of higher taxable incomes from regularization and citizenship.
- In comparison, providing regularization and citizenship to only unauthorized essential workers would reduce the potential 10-year cumulative increase in tax revenue by almost 20 percent, producing instead a cumulative $298 billion.
- Similarly, limiting a path to citizenship to only DACA or TPS workers would drastically reduce the potential cumulative gain in tax revenue; legislation that included only DACA recipients would generate only $28 billion in additional tax revenue, and legislation including only TPS workers would generate just half of that ($16 billion).
- Providing citizenship to all unauthorized workers would increase employment opportunities over the decade, creating 371,000 new jobs in 2031.
- In comparison, providing regularization and citizenship to only unauthorized essential workers would lead to 81,000 fewer new jobs added by 2031 (290,000 new jobs total).
- Limiting a path to citizenship to only DACA or TPS workers would drastically reduce the potential for job creation over the decade. Legislation that includes only DACA would generate 27,000 new jobs by 2031 and 15,000 new jobs if only TPS workers are included.