Economist weighs in on immigration reform - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Economist weighs in on immigration reform


While lawmakers continue to hash out details of an immigration reform bill, local economists are watching.

Fred Abraham is an economics professor at the University of Northern Iowa.

"There's a real benefit to getting people from other countries to the U.S.," he said.

"They provide additional skills. They provide additional demand. They consume goods and services, and that helps businesses every place. But on the downside of this, especially in the short run, immigration especially at lower level jobs can displace American workers causing some unemployment among people who already are in the states and have jobs," he said.

Abraham wouldn't elaborate on whether immigration policy changes would be fair.

"Economists don't talk about fairness," he said. "What we talk about is gainers and losers and what is and what isn't."

He said immigration reform boils down to what lawmakers decide to focus on.

He said if lawmakers decide to "fast-track" the estimated 11-million undocumented immigrants who are already in the country into becoming U.S. citizens, there likely wouldn't be much of a change in the economy.

"If it's just helping the 11-million people in the United States, I'm not sure there's going to be much of an economic impact because they're already here. If they're going to contribute, they've already been contributing. The jobs that they're going to have, they've already had," he said.

But according to Abraham, if lawmakers decide to focus on making it easier for people to immigrate to the U.S., there could be significant impacts on the U.S. economy because more people would potentially be coming to the country to live and work.

"If we bring more workers into the country, what's going to happen? That's an increase in the supply of labor. An increase in the supply of labor in the short run is probably going to drive down wages so I think that we have to say that in the short term, there's going to be a decline in wages, especially in lower-skilled jobs," he said.

But Abraham admits only time will tell.

"We don't know what the law is going to do," he said.

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