Bush Institute Backs Immigration Reform as Bullish on US Economy

New book finds advantages to economic growth in proposed reform.

ByABC News
June 24, 2013, 11:28 PM

June 25, 2013— -- A new book published today by the George W. Bush Institute says there is no viable economic reason to keep the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the shadows and promotes the need for immigration reform.

The book, co-sponsored by the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, finds immigration reform is good for job creation and adds to the economy through growth.

"It's stagnant," Matthew Denhard, research fellow at the George W. Bush Institute and book author said of the U.S. labor force in an exclusive interview with ABC News. "The native-born workforce is becoming older."

Whereas, he says, 70 percent of immigrants are of working age between 25 and 64.

"When we talk about small businesses -- 18 percent of all small business owners in the U.S. are immigrants," he said. "Whereas only about 13 percent of all people in the U.S. are immigrants ... immigrants fill gaps in our labor force. And we were talking about high skilled and low skilled immigrants."

Denhard's research, which is encapsulated in the new book, "Growth and Immigration: A Handbook of Vital Immigration and Economic growth Statistics," found immigrant-owned businesses generate an estimated $775 billion in annual revenue.

The book, launched today, comes the same week the Senate is expected to vote on comprehensive immigration reform. A recent CBO report also found immigration reform would boost the economy and lower the federal deficit.

Denhard said the evidence is "very clear" that immigrants come here with the purpose to work, and found immigrants are more likely than native born Americans to be married and live in a married-couple household.

"When people have strong family values, it's good for the economy as well," he said. "They value time together and they work hard. And they are trying to make better lives for themselves and for their children."

The research in the book also found that one in 10 American workers are employed by an immigrant-owned business, and more than half of all engineering and technology firms in Silicon Valley started between 1995 and 2005 were founded by an immigrant.

"There isn't a single economic reason that someone should stand against a strong and viable immigration bill passing," Javier Palomarez, president and CEO of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, told ABC News. "It is clear that if you are for small business, you cannot be against immigration reform."

Opponents of the legislation argue that with the country having a 7.5 percent unemployment rate, immigration reform would only serve against the interests of American workers.

"There's been a couple of examples where some ill conceived anti-immigrant bills were passed in certain states and those states found out, unfortunately, that there weren't a whole bunch of people stepping up to the jobs that formerly immigrants had been doing," Palomarez said.

The George W. Bush Institute sponsored the research and book. Bush families have been pushing for immigration reform for decades -- first under George H.W. and later under G.W. Bush during his attempt at reform in 2007.

"Most conservatives want growth," Jim Glassman, executive director of the George W. Bush Institute, said in an interview with ABC News. "That seems to be the focus of their economic policy at any rate. And we think this is a good way to get growth.

"The engine of growth for the U.S. has been immigrants," he said. "They're the ones who take the chances, they're the ones who start businesses, and there's no difference really between the situation we're in today and what we were in the turn of the century, or other times in American history."

Glassman said arguments against reform on the basis of immigrants "taking American jobs" are "very weak."

"That's based on what's called the 'Lump of Labor Fallacy.' That is to say, there's only a certain amount of labor, and so if you're doing a job, somebody's going to take it away," he said.

If Congress fails to act or is unable to pass immigration reform, Glassman said, it will be years before there will be another "opportunity" and the current "failed immigration policy," if continued, would only serve to stifle U.S. economic growth.

"I don't think there's any doubt that continuing with the same failed immigration policy that we have in the United States today will continue to hold growth down," he said. "We really need to get this country up to 3 or 4 percent growth. ... I think [not passing reform] keeps us in the 2 percent range. And for the benefit of everybody in America, we need to grow faster."