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Contractor: Oklahoma would benefit from immigration reform

BY BOBBY STEM Published: August 17, 2013

Fixing the nation's hopelessly outdated immigration policies will make Oklahoma a safer, stronger, more prosperous place to live.

Study after study has found that immigration reform will stimulate the U.S. economy. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that policies outlined in the Senate bill will increase national real GDP by 3.3 percent in 2023 and 5.4 percent in 2033. In today's dollars, that adds up to an additional $700 billion economic output in 10 years and a staggering $1.4 trillion 10 years after that.

Oklahoma would see a significant share of that increase. One survey indicates that the pathway to citizenship put forth by the Senate, coupled with expanded visa allocations for the high-skilled and other temporary workers that state industries need, would boost state GDP by $290 million and create almost 3,500 Oklahoma jobs — in just the first year. By 2045, immigration reform would add $1.7 billion to the Oklahoma economy.

Reasonable immigration reform polices will build on the strong, productive immigrant population Oklahoma has today. This state has always welcomed people who want to work hard and build successful lives; over the years, industrious immigrants by the thousands have taken us up on it. Today, 7.4 percent of the Oklahoma labor force is foreign-born. Just under 7 percent of all Oklahoma businesses are owned by immigrants.

The construction industry fully understands the importance of these numbers. We must have both ends of the labor spectrum — people who have the knowledge and education to design and engineer big projects, as well as people willing to get their hands dirty and tackle the tough jobs that get those projects built. Where they were born is of little importance; their commitment to hard work and making the state more prosperous is all that matters.

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