President Barack Obama renewed his push for Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform Thursday. There are concerns that the move could impact the local economy as well as local paths to citizenship.
FOX23 talked to one expert who thinks passing immigration reform, though controversial, would be a good thing for Tulsa.
Tulsa university law professor Elizabeth McCormick has been tracking efforts to reform immigration for years. She thinks Tulsans would see several improvements in the community if thousands of illegal immigrants were able to become legal residents – and the first could be crime and public safety.
”(They’d have)more of a sense of security about the protection they had from our law enforcement agencies, because they wouldn't be afraid to reach out and to get help or to cooperate with police," said McCormick.
Opponents say legalizing immigrants would allow them to take jobs from those who have always been American citizens. But McCormick says not allowing illegals to have certain jobs is what's hurting our economy.
"There are certainly business owners who feel that they are being hurt by their inability to hire available immigrant workers who currently don't have authorization to work," said McCormick.
Jeremy Owens sees the biggest change being to our tax base.
"It's a lot better for us to have them as citizens and actually have them pay taxes and actually be a part of the government or the system than it is to just let them be immigrants illegally," said McCormick.
According to the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the Hispanic community spends more than $7 billion in Oklahoma's economy. Since city governments rely mostly on sales tax, Hispanic leaders argue illegal immigrants are already contributing to the tax base. But McCormick says that would only increase with legal status.
"Immigrants who would be working as part of the regular economy, as opposed to an underground economy would be more likely to have withholding from their paychecks. They would be more likely to purchase homes and pay real estate taxes," said McCormick.
That means more money for roads and schools. Not everybody thinks this is a good idea. FOX23 was unable to get anyone to talk to us on camera about opposing immigration reform but several said off camera that securing the border and stopping more illegals from coming in must happen before anybody is given legal status.