Immigration reform's economic impact is debated

As the U.S. unemployment rate hovers at around 10 percent, a key question is emerging in the unfolding immigration reform debate: whether legalizing millions of undocumented immigrants will further erode the economy or speed its recovery. The answer is hard to pin down because of clashing conclusions in recently issued reports.

One study released Thursday and endorsed by pro-immigration groups said legalization would boost the economy. But a report issued in December by an organization that seeks tighter immigration controls said less-educated native U.S. workers will find it more difficult to land jobs if illegal foreign workers are given green cards.

The issue could set back immigration reform once again if the public perceives undocumented immigrants as a threat to workers who are citizens or legal residents.

That's not going to happen, some immigrant rights advocates claim, because most people support immigration reform. America's Voice, a pro-immigration group in Washington, released updated poll data Monday showing that even in a down economy a majority of surveyed voters support immigration reform.

According to the data, 55 percent of 800 polled voters agreed with the statement that the economic crisis "makes it more crucial than ever" that Congress deal with immigration reform vs. 42 percent who said this is not the right time for the issue.

U.S. Roman Catholic Church leaders set the stage for the economic dimension of the debate when they told a news conference in Washington Wednesday that those who argue against legalization because of unemployment are wrong.

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