WASHINGTON -- A sweeping overhaul of the nation's immigration laws such as the legislation approved in June by the Senate would boost Maryland's economic output by $740 million and add more than 8,000 jobs in the state, according to a report released Thursday by the Obama administration.
The release of the state-by-state data, which follows a similar national report the White House issued last month, is the latest effort by Democrats to frame the legislation as an important factor in improving the U.S. economy -- even as the GOP-led House of Representatives has balked at the measure.
After months of closed-door, bipartisan talks, the Senate passed its immigration overhaul with support from 14 Republicans. The bill would spend billions more on border security while creating a pathway to citizenship for as many as 11 million immigrants who are in the country illegally.
The White House report suggests the bill would increase total personal income for Maryland families by $2.9 billion in 2020 and increase the amount of state and local taxes paid by immigrants in the state by roughly $163 million. The report also finds that an overhaul would increase home values and tourism in the state.
Republicans pushed back on the report's findings, aruging that an influx of lower-wage workers would, in fact, lower wages over all.
"In its report today the White House embraced these increases [in immigration] as its central economic argument: What our economy needs most is a large increase in the number of low-skill workers," said Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the top-ranking Republican on the Senate Budget Committee who has opposed the Senate immigration bill.
"Perhaps we can finally have this debate out in the open -- and dispense once and for all with the idea that the CEOs bankrolling the immigration push are concerned with anything other than reducing the cost of labor," he said. "It's not about 'reform.' It's about profit."
Even if the White House numbers prove accurate, it's not clear whether a comprehensive immigration bill has any chance in the House. Many Republican lawmakers have expressed concern that the Senate bill rewards those who entered the country illegally or overstayed their visas. The House has pushed a series of more limited immigration proposals.
In early July the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that the Senate bill would curb future illegal immigration by as much as 50 percent and would cut the federal budget deficit by $135 billion over the first decade.
Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun