White House touts economic effect of Obama's immigration program

Obama's executive actions on immigration will boost California economy, White House says

The White House said Monday that President Obama's executive actions on immigration could boost California's economy by as much as $27.5 billion.

In a public relations blitz ahead of the rollout of Obama's expanded deferred action program, White House advisor Cecilia Muñoz said the president's move to give work permits to millions and ease restrictions on high-skilled immigrants would increase wages and productivity in the nation's largest economy.

"The executive actions encourage innovation and entrepreneurship," Muñoz said. "By allowing undocumented immigrants ... to come out of the shadows and into the mainstream economy, the president's executive actions make it easier for both immigrants and U.S.-born workers to find jobs that best suit their skills."

Muñoz cited statistics from the White House Council of Economic Advisors, which has estimated that the package of changes announced by Obama last November would raise the nation's gross domestic product by up to $90 billion over the next decadeby expanding the labor force and givingimmigrant workers the flexibility to seek new jobs.

Along with issuing temporary work permits to millions of eligible immigrants who have U.S.-born children or who were brought here as youths, Obama's new policy will allow foreign workers in some high-skilled fields to change jobs as they wait for green cards.

Robert Suro, director of the Tomás Rivera Public Policy Institute at USC, said he had not analyzed exactly how much the changes would affect California's economy, but he said it was certain to see a boost.

Work permits will allow people to move to better-paying jobs, he said, which means they will be spending more and paying more in taxes.

"There are a lot of ripples that set out from this," he said, noting that after a 1986 amnesty bill created a path to citizenship for about 3 million people, "there was a spate of car buying that could be traced to people who had been legalized and were able to get better jobs."

Obama's plan has come under attack from those who favor stricter immigration enforcement, with opponents dismissing White House predictions of economic growth.

"It is not surprising that the Obama administration has produced an economic study to support its position on immigration," said Ric Oberlink of Californians for Population Stabilization, which advocates for stricter immigration laws. He said any economic growth generated is likely to benefit immigrants, not society as a whole.

Muñoz was joined on the media conference call by California Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris, who said Obama's actions would be a boon to law enforcement because immigrants with some form of legal status will be more likely to report crimes. Mike Krieger, co-founder of the popular Web application Instagram, also joined Muñoz.

An immigrant from Brazil, Krieger praised Obama's efforts to make it easier for foreign-born workers to change jobs while waiting for permanent residency status. He also called on Congress to raise the cap on high-skilled work visas, speaking from personal experience about the long wait for work authorization.

"We built and launched the first version of Instagram in less time than it took to get my visa," Krieger said.

kate.linthicum@latimes.com

Twitter: @katelinthicum

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