Improving federal and state policies can expand immigrants’ contributions to Minnesota

Throughout our country’s history, immigrants have played important roles in strengthening our economy and shaping our communities. They are our neighbors and coworkers who have come to the United States seeking a better life for themselves and their families. Many have been here for years and their children may be American citizens.

We recently released three issue briefs outlining the ways undocumented immigrants currently strengthen our economy, as well as how federal and state policies could be improved to meet growing workforce needs while increasing opportunities for workers and young people.

President Barack Obama’s proposed executive action would create a temporary legal status for 30,000 undocumented immigrants who have deep ties to their communities in Minnesota. The action would expand Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) to cover people who entered the United States before they turned 16 and have lived in the country continuously since 2010, and create Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA), covering undocumented parents whose children are U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents. Both DACA and DAPA allow eligible immigrants to apply for work authorization and deferred action for three years.

Providing stable status to millions of immigrants through the president’s 2012 and 2014 executive actions would improve the U.S. economy by an estimated $230 billion over ten years, and Minnesota’s economy by an estimated $1.7 billion.

Obama’s executive order, currently on hold in the courts, would allow eligible immigrants to work in jobs that better align with their abilities, build their skills and earn higher wages. As a result, immigrants given temporary legal work status would be expected to see a 5 to 10 percent increase in their wages, bringing many families closer to making ends meet and benefiting local communities. The executive action also acknowledges the investments made in young people who have grown up here, allowing them to further their educations and careers.

On the state level, we look at the impact of expanding access to driver’s licenses to all Minnesotans, regardless of their immigration status. Some 83,000 Minnesotans cannot get driver’s licenses, which can make it difficult for them to reliably get to their jobs or school. Ensuring everyone can access driver’s licenses can strengthen our labor force and make our roads safer. With a tightening job market and labor shortage on the horizon, Minnesota can’t afford to leave eligible workers on the sidelines.

All three briefs are available on our website:

-Clark Biegler

About Clark Biegler

Clark Biegler is the Minnesota Budget Project's policy analyst.
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