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Immigration Reform Means New Taxpayers for OR

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 By Chris ThomasContact
April 30, 2009

Salem, OR – It’s a big week for the almost-400,000 Oregon immigrants. Today the first U.S. Senate hearing on comprehensive immigration reform will focus on whether it’s even possible, given the country’s economic climate. Then, on Friday, Oregon’s immigrant families rally in Salem to urge state lawmakers to back the federal efforts.

Francisco Lopez, director of the immigrants’ rights group CAUSA, says, if the government had moved faster, there would already be more taxpayers, instead of more people in line, waiting for citizenship.

"We missed a big opportunity because the contribution to the economy of all these new, legalized immigrants could have been huge - bigger than ever. So, now we are saying, let’s not miss opportunity, and let’s fix this."

The Center for American Progress estimates allowing undocumented workers a path to legal citizenship would add more than $6 billion of federal tax income over the next decade. Opponents are expected to argue that, with the health care crisis, plus energy and education reform, Congress would be taking on too much to tackle immigration right now.

But, Lopez calls the current system "dysfunctional," keeping people in the shadows instead of allowing them to work legally. He also disagrees with those who say immigrants are taking jobs away from other Oregon workers.

"Nobody wants to work in the fields. I think that there are some people that will collect unemployment rather than working on the field. And you ask any of the growers in this state, they will tell you, ‘We do need those workers.’ Because no one else will do that job."

The major labor unions have said they’ll support immigration reform, which Lopez believes will be a big boost. Labor and business leaders, and lawmakers, will be among the speakers at Friday's rally at the State Capitol, at 11:00 a.m.

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