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Study: Immigration Overhaul Would Boost Mass. Jobs, Incomes

BOSTON — A comprehensive immigration overhaul — like the one that’s passed the U.S. Senate but is currently languishing in the House — would “have a positive effect on the State of Massachusetts and its citizens,” a new study concludes.

The state-by-state report from private forecasting firm Regional Economic Models Inc. (REMI) finds that states with the largest numbers of undocumented immigrants — think California and Texas — would add the most jobs and see the biggest income gains, if immigration reform along the lines of the Senate-passed version becomes law.

Smaller Massachusetts would reap smaller, but still notable, benefits, REMI finds.

Creating a pathway to legal status for undocumented immigrants would add about 10,000 jobs in the state and some $900 million to gross state product by 2020, the study calculates.

A second provision of an overhaul, expanding high-skilled (H1-B) visas, would bring more than 2,300 new high-skilled workers to Massachusetts in 2014, and increase overall jobs by more than 14,000 by 2020.

A third provision, to reform lower-skilled visas, would also create more than 12,000 jobs by 2020.

As The Wall Street Journal, which first reported on the study late Tuesday, put it: “All of these provisions are included in the immigration-overhaul legislation that the Senate has passed.”

“These proposals are about growing the economic pie, to a large extent,” Fred Treyz, Regional Economic Models’ chief executive, told the WSJ.

Legalizing undocumented workers would also boost personal incomes in Massachusetts, the study finds. REMI estimates that by 2020, incomes would increase by an average of $173 per person, adjusted for inflation.

That’s not the case in Vermont and Maine, two New England states with smaller populations. Creating a pathway to legal status would slightly decrease per capita incomes in those states.

The WSJ has this note about the study’s financial backing:

The state-by-state immigration report was paid for by the Ford Foundation, Carnegie Corporation of New York and Unbound Philanthropy, a private foundation focused on migration issues. A spokesperson for the Ford Foundation said the group wasn’t lobbying on immigration legislation but trying to inform the conversation. Both Carnegie and Unbound Philanthropy have supported creating a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

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