by Neil King Jr.
More than 100 conservative economists, including several who advised Republican presidents, are urging Congress to pass a sweeping immigration overhaul, arguing in a letter that new rules would improve the economy and help reduce the deficit.
The letter contrasts sharply with the conclusions drawn two weeks ago by scholars at the conservative Heritage Foundation, who released a study making the case that any move to grant eventual amnesty to the 11 million undocumented workers now in the U.S. would end up costing taxpayers $6.3 billion.
Conservatives have been engaged for weeks in a heated debate over the economic impact of a comprehensive immigration deal. A similar Heritage study predicting a high price tag in 2007 helped kill a big immigration push under President George W. Bush.
The letter to the four top leaders of the House and Senate from both parties is signed by a wide array of Republican economists, including Douglas Holtz-Eakin, R. Glenn Hubbard, Arthur Laffer, Edward Lazear, Lawrence Lindsey and John Taylor, all of whom have worked in Republican White Houses or advised presidential candidates.
“A broad-based immigration reform bill,” the authors argue, “will lead to more rapid economic growth” by expanding the labor force and enhancing the housing market. “This, in turn, translates into a positive impact on the federal budget,” the letter states.
The economists furnished few details on what sort of overhaul they would like to see, but they do express support for removing “legal clouds from employers and undocumented resident alike” and creating “a U.S. visa system more attuned to economic policy objectives.”