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Why immigration reform's simplest question has no easy answer (+video)

How many new foreigners will come to the country if the Senate immigration reform plan passes? One study says it could add more than a million a year, another says it will reduce the inflow.

On this may day thousands are rallying not just for undocumented workers., but immigration reform as well. The group spent the afternoon marching from Union Park to Federal Plaza.
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 The Senate’s bipartisan legislation will modestly reduce the flow of foreigners coming into the country in years to come by widening legal immigration channels but cutting off the flow of illegal migration, according to an analysis prepared by the liberal Center for American Progress released Wednesday.

The CAP analysis is a rejoinder to tabulations done by groups opposed to the immigration measure, which have posited that the plan could lead to as many as 30 million more people becoming permanent US residents during the next 10 to 15 years than might have without the reforms.

These calculations are "an attempt to scare the public,” write the authors of the CAP report. "In reality," they argue, "approximately 150,000 fewer people will enter the country each year under the Senate plan.”

Answering the question of how many new immigrants the Senate plan will bring to the US is central to its prospects. Estimates of new Americans not only touch on the cultural fears of some conservatives and economic fears for some job-seekers but also to the hopes of businesses, who want more entrepreneurial and scientific talent. The new CAP figures suggest that liberals are no longer willing to let conservative groups dominate the conversation.

"You have people like [Republican Sen.] Jeff Sesisions and Numbers USA putting out these wild estimates," says Phil Wolgin, a senior immigration analyst with CAP. "Here’s the reality: We’re taking what has been a chaotic system of unauthorized entry on top of legal entry, and we’re moving unauthorized [immigrants] into legal streams."

Not surprisingly, the dueling studies show starkly different assumptions about how to calculate the future flow of immigrants.


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