In both a tribute to Martin Luther King Jr.'s work and the legacy of the broader civil rights movement, more than 1,000 people packed the First Baptist Congregational Church on Chicago's West Side Saturday to rally for immigration reform. It's no surprise that activists grew frustrated last year over the lack of action by Congress and the Obama administration. In an effort to build momentum, Rep. Luis Gutierrez introduced a bill last month that outlines a plan for overhauling the nation's immigration system to create a path to citizenship for millions of undocumented Americans.
This weekend, members of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights and numerous other organizations came out to show their commitment to the cause. "We marched. We protested. We registered people to vote. We voted," Rep. Jan Schakowsky said of the immigrant community's role in the 2008 elections. "Now it's time we change the law." In his remarks, Gutierrez added: "This is the year we're gonna get it done." Watch some brief excerpts from their speeches, along with the one delivered by Tom Balanoff, president of the SEIU Illinois State Council (which sponsors this website):
As regular readers may recall, a key component of Gutierrez' reform package is overhauling the way the U.S. hands out visas. Under Gutierrez' bill, the process would reflect the actual demands of the labor market. That, the Center for American Progress estimates (PDF), would give the overall U.S. economy a jolt by generating a steady stream of new tax revenue, boosting the gross domestic product by a cumulative $1.5 trillion over the next decade. But the more immediate benefit to workers is that such a system would finally begin to raise the floor on wages, which have been depressed for years now. The study's author bases his analysis on the how the nation's last major change to the immigration process -- the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA) -- played out. More from the report:
Comprehensive immigration reform brings substantial economic gains even in the short run—during the first three years following legalization. The real wages of newly legalized workers increase by roughly $4,405 per year among those in less-skilled jobs during the first three years of implementation, and $6,185 per year for those in higher-skilled jobs. The higher earning power of newly legalized workers translates into an increase in net personal income of $30 to $36 billion, which would generate $4.5 to $5.4 billion in additional net tax revenue. Moreover, an increase in personal income of this scale would generate consumer spending sufficient to support 750,000 to 900,000 jobs.
Conversely, continuing with the current strategy of aggressive deportation would amount to a $2.6 trillion cumulative hit to the nation's GDP over the next 10 years, CAP estimates. Go check out the whole report here.