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Study Predicts Immigration Overhaul Would Boost District’s Economics | D.C. Notebook

If legislation largely modeled on the Senate’s immigration proposal were signed into law this year, Washington, D.C., would see an influx of particularly high-skilled workers and growth in economic indicators such as total job creation, according to a recent study released by Regional Economic Models Inc., an economic forecasting firm.

If such policy were to be implemented this year, REMI projected that for every person who enrolls in the Senate’s proposed Pathway to Legal Status, an additional $1,212 would be added to the District of Columbia’s gross state product in 2014, increasing to more than $6,423 by 2020. The firm estimated that the influx of workers and new jobs would increase personal income per capita in D.C. by $149 by 2020.

The study estimated that expanding the H-1B visa program would add more than 500 high-skilled workers to the District next year, and more than 1,100 total new jobs in 2014. That number, the firm expects, would increase to more than 2,100 new jobs by 2020.

Overall, in 2014, the expansion would add more than $153 million to GSP and increase personal income by $71 million.

By expanding H-1B visas, businesses with labor shortages would be able to expand their operations. And the business expansion would encompass not only H-1B employees, but also additional positions within the firm that will employ the general workforce, REMI estimated.

“Historical performance of the program shows those visas are in high demand, and [firms] typically max them out in any given year no matter the costs,” Scott Nystrom, associate economist at REMI, said of the high-skilled visas. “Our analysis [assumes] this situation holds, only with more visas and therefore more workers coming into the United States. The productivity of the workers and the wages paid to them creates the effects in our model.”

The study examined the economic effects of key components of the Senate bill at the state and national level — the Path to Legal Status, H-1B visa expansion and changes in lesser-skilled visa programs, such as the H-2A, H-2B, and W-1 visas.