According to FWD.us estimates, some 6.8 million undocumented immigrants have lived in the United States since January 1, 2011 (more than ten years) and would be eligible to apply for work permits and deportation protection if that were the qualifying date for immigration relief.3 In fact, most of those who would be eligible have actually lived in the United States for much longer, an average of 20 years. This represents about 68% of the total undocumented population, and includes some 1.4 million undocumented spouses of U.S. citizens or permanent residents and some 600,000 undocumented parents of adult U.S. citizen or permanent resident children (ages 21 years and older) living in the same household.4 Under existing immigration statute, these 2 million immediate family members of U.S. citizens could potentially later apply for lawful permanent resident status (a green card) and eventually citizenship, if they qualified.
Allowing individuals with long-standing ties to the U.S. to access immigration relief would help keep millions of American families together. FWD.us estimates more than 17 million people, or about 1 in 20 U.S. residents, live in households with at least one individual who could benefit from immigration relief. These households include some 8.5 million U.S. citizens of which nearly 5 million are U.S. citizen minor children.
Immigration relief with work permits would also allow for some 5.3 million undocumented workers already in the U.S. labor force, including an estimated 4.2 million essential workers, to apply for work permits and remain in these critical jobs.
FWD.us estimates that, with work permits, immigrants who were previously undocumented would increase their contributions to the national economy by $17 billion annually, including expanding several state economies by billions of dollars. They would also increase their federal, state, and local tax contributions by $10 billion annually, as a larger share would pay taxes and some would contribute higher amounts with better jobs obtained after receiving work permits. Work authorization generally helps immigrants who were undocumented secure higher wages and better match their occupations and skills to their jobs; in turn, immigrants with work authorization are able to increase their economic contributions significantly. U.S. citizens would see positive impacts as well, including increased wages and productivity, with no negative impact on employment.