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(TRENTON) Assembly Deputy Speaker Upendra J. Chivukula joined the call that The Time is Now for comprehensive immigration reform as thousands of advocates, immigrants and their supporters converged in the nation’s capital to rally Congress to enact legislation that would put an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants on the path to American citizenship.

The Washington summit culminates a series of rallies around the country in which advocates have been calling on their U.S. representatives to pass common sense immigration reform. It also comes in a week that Congress resumed session and a bipartisan team of Democratic and Republican Senators known as the “Gang of Eight” is rallying lawmakers to support the legislation they drafted.

“The massive rally in the nation’s capital sends a strong signal to Congress on the burgeoning support for immigration reform across our country, reinforcing successive polls that the majority of Americans support the legalization of undocumented immigrants. It is time for all Americans to stand behind common sense immigration reform that would bring the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants out of the shadows and onto the pathway of citizenship so that they can make a greater contribution to our nation and our economy. Undocumented immigrants contributed more than $50 billion in federal taxes in a span of seven years. Legalization is estimated to generate billions of additional dollars in tax revenue from undocumented workers and their employers. Immigration reform will also help reunite families separated by an outdated and broken system,” Chivukula (D-Somerset\Middlesex) said.

The IRS estimates that between 1996 to 2003, undocumented immigrants paid $50 billion in federal taxes including payroll and Social Security.

According to Building a 21st Century Immigration System, a blueprint from the White House, immigrants started 25 percent of the highest growth companies between 1990 and 2005 and these companies employ an estimated 220,000 people in the U.S. These immigrant-founded companies that include Intel, Google, Yahoo, and eBay, have helped drive American leadership in the computer and internet revolution.

According to the Small Business Administration (SBA), immigrant business owners generate $67 billion of the $677 billion of the U.S. business income.

A report released on April 9th by the American Action Forum, a conservative think tank, estimates that a benchmark immigration reform would raise the pace of economic growth by nearly a percentage point over the near term, raise Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita to over $1500 and reduce the cumulative federal deficit by over $2.5 trillion.

“Study after study reinforces that immigration reform will provide an economic boost to our nation. Immigrants are prolific inventors and job creators who are 30 percent more likely to start businesses than non-immigrants. They represent 16.7 percent of all new business owners. Immigrants give the U.S. workplace an important competitive advantage,” Chivukula said.

According to a cost estimate by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the path to legalization would increase federal revenue by $48 billion but would only incur $23 billion in increased costs from public service, thus producing a surplus of $25 billion for government coffers.

According to the White House blueprint, current immigrants represent 24 percent of U.S. scientists and 47 percent of U.S. engineers with a bachelors or doctorate degree. The share of patent applications from foreign born nationals increased from 7.3 percent to 24.2 percent between 1998 to 2006.

“We are a country that has been built by immigrants and by attracting the brightest and the best to our shores from across the globe. We thrive on competition. It has made us better. We cherish diversity. It defines us. We are uplifted by our commitment to the ideals of fairness, equality and justice. It is who we are. The majority of the undocumented immigrants are hard working individuals who consider America their home and are productive members of our society but are deprived of equal rights and opportunity. We should move quickly to embrace immigration reform that would grant them equal rights and invest them with responsibilities as full participants in our democracy. That would be true to our values as Americans,” Chivukula said.

Chivukula stood with advocates and workers as well as state and federal lawmakers at the April 6th rally held at the Liberty State Park in Jersey City. Representatives from state chapters of labor unions including the AFL-CIO, the CWA, LIUNA and SEIU 32BJ endorsed the call for immigration reform. The rally was organized by a coalition of organizations including La Fuente, the Service Employees International Union, Main Street Alliance, American Friends Service Committee, Wind of the Spirit in Morristown, and the New Jersey Dream Act Coalition.

A long-standing advocate for immigration reform, Chivukula is one of two Asian American lawmakers in the 120-member state Legislature. Asian Americans are the fastest growing group in New Jersey and account for 8.7 percent of the state’s nearly nine million population.