Chair of Catholic Bishops' Migration Committee: Amnesty Is 'Win-Win'

The chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Committee on Migration wrote Wednesday that passage of immigration reform that would legalize millions of illegal immigrants in the U.S. is a “win-win for both immigrant workers and their families and U.S. citizens.”

Writing at the USCCB blog, Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, auxiliary bishop of Seattle, said that providing legal status in 2014 to those immigrants who have come to the U.S. illegally would have the same positive impact as the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) had in 1986 when it was passed by Congress.

Elizondo wrote that, although IRCA was criticized as failed legislation, “a positive side-effect of the law was the impact it had on wages and upward economic mobility of immigrant workers:”

To explain, the wages for undocumented workers who gained legal status under IRCA increased 15 percent in the five years after it was enacted. Why? Because these newly legalized workers were better able to assert their rights in the workplace, all employers were forced to play by the same rules and pay them a competitive wage.

Over the long-term, the IRCA legalization led to a reduction of poverty among immigrant communities, as beneficiaries garnered education and skills and obtained higher paying jobs. For example, 27 percent of IRCA immigrants age 16 to 24 lived below the federal poverty line in 1990; by 2006, only 15 percent lived below the poverty line.

To support his view, Elizondo cited a UCLA study that showed that for the three years following the granting of amnesty, illegal immigrants experienced an increase in net income of $30 to $36 billion.

“This would have benefits for all U.S. citizens because it would generate $4.5 to $5.4 billion in tax revenues and consumer spending sufficient to support nearly 900,000 jobs,” Elizondo said.

In addition, Elizondo wrote that immigration reform legislation that would provide legal status to illegal immigrants would help to reduce the federal government’s deficit.

According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), Elizondo said that the U.S. Senate’s immigration reform bill would reduce the deficit by $158 billion by 2023 because of increased tax revenues and consumer spending.

“Keeping undocumented workers in the shadows limits their ability to fully contribute to our economy and prevents them from climbing out of poverty,” wrote Elizondo. “This harms the whole community, as immigrants and their children – the future leaders of our nation – miss the opportunity to reach their full God-given potential.”

The bishop said that legalizing these immigrants would allow them to obtain an education, start businesses, and create jobs – all benefits to the nation.

“More importantly,” he wrote, “it would allow them to live in dignity, as full members of our nation.”

The USCCB is sponsoring National Migration Week from January 5th-11th, the theme of which is “Out of the Darkness.” Justice for Immigrants, a group that is associated with some organizations whose actions have not been aligned with Catholic doctrine in the areas of abortion and marriage, is running the bishops’ campaign for amnesty.


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