Diana Furchtgott-Roth

– Diana Furchtgott-Roth, former chief economist at the U.S. Department of Labor, is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute. –

It’s welcome news that President Obama will turn his attention to immigration reform this year, as was announced on Wednesday by Deputy Assistant to the President Cecilia Muñoz. Economic recovery will happen more quickly if both high- and low-skill immigrants are permitted to enter the United States and work legally.

Two years ago, when Congress was considering comprehensive immigration reform, both President Bush’s Council of Economic Advisers and the Congressional Budget Office, headed by Peter Orszag, an economist closely identified with the Democratic Party, estimated that the benefits of additional immigrants outweighed the costs. If Congress allowed more immigration, then American taxpayers would come out ahead financially.

Yet, after Congress refused to pass President Bush’s plan to allow most undocumented workers to receive work visas and wait in line for citizenship, the Bush administration’s immigration policy deteriorated into a series of arbitrary raids on different companies, rounding up undocumented workers and deporting them, in many cases separating husbands and wives, parents and children.

We can do better. Although the unemployment rate reached 8.5 percent last month, the jobs are going to come back, and, as has been the case in the past, native-born Americans will want jobs that are different from those of immigrants, according to economics professor Giovanni Peri of the University of California at Davis.