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Monday, Feb 18 2013 11:00 PM

Immigration reform's heady new argument

By The Bakersfield Californian

A college student who "came out" last week as an undocumented immigrant has created quite a sensation. He's not just any student. He's the head of UC Berkeley's math club, and he is using his brain -- and some pretty impressive numbers -- to make an argument for the DREAM Act.

Terrence Park is a South Korean student who came to the U.S. on a temporary visa with his family when he was 10. That visa expired, and Park figured laying low and keeping quiet about his immigration status was his most prudent option. But now he has come forward as part of the "Dream is Now" campaign led by Powell Jobs, widow of Apple founder Steve Jobs, and filmmaker Davis Guggenheim.

The campaign is intended to open up paths to citizenship for 2.1 million immigrant students brought to the U.S. as children.

Park, 24, argues that it would cost the U.S. $23,000 to deport him and about $48 billion to deport all 2.1 million students. But if they're allowed to remain in the U.S., those students will enter the workforce and earn $148 billion by 2030. Those earnings will create a ripple effect of spending, job creation and tax revenue, pumping $329 billion into the economy.

Those figures are undoubtedly skewed in favor of the "Dream is Now" campaign: It assumes that the U.S. will deport 2.1 million students, and it assumes that each will equally contribute to the $329 billion economic boost.

But Park's point has some validity. Plenty of undocumented students are well-educated, fully assimilated and completely prepared to contribute to the U.S. economy. With immigration reform moving from the back burner to the forefront of U.S. political debate, it seems fair and prudent to dispassionately consider the economics of reform from this angle.

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