WASHINGTON - Immigrant rights groups, which gathered in Los Angeles for a unity conference, have urged the govt to provide a path to legalisation for the 12m undocumented immigrants in the US and make it easier for family members to come to the US for family reunion. California State Senator Gil Cedillo, who is running for US Congress, said at the conference Saturday that he sees more hope for the comprehensive immigration reform under President Barack Obama. Legalisation of undocumented immigrants and full integration of the new immigrants into the US society will do good to the economy since the US is a country of immigrants. Closing its door to new immigrants will be against the tradition of the country, he said. The immigrant rights groups plan to stage mass rallies and demonstrations on May 1 in Los Angeles and other big cities in the US to make legislators in Washington DC and the White House be aware of the immigration issue and give priority to the immigration reform process, as President Obama has promised in his election campaign. As the country is in a financial crisis and the unemployment rate is at a record high, immigrants have been hard hit and became scapegoats. US companies used to hire many foreign students who have graduated from US universities with H-1B visas, but in face of the mass layoffs, foreign students usually become the first to lose their jobs and have to go back to their own countries. Critics say if the trend keeps going, the United States will lose the most gifted people the country needs and will suffer a brain drain. Debunking the myth that H-1B visas steal American jobs, a US think tank has asked the Congress to instead raise the cap on them, a few days after a Republican Congressman introduced a bill aimed at keeping in the US foreigners with PhD degrees. The Heritage Foundation analysts Jena Baker McNeill and Diem Nguyen said earlier this week that the US Congress must raise the cap on H-1B visas back to 195,000 visas per year - the maximum allowed as recently as 2001, from the current 65,000. Raising the cap for H-1B visas will not steal American jobs but will help promote economic growth and generate much needed tax revenue, they said. There is a popular myth that H-1B workers displace Americans because foreigners will work for less than Americans even if they have greater qualifications. This notion is so widespread that the US Congress recently passed an amendment barring companies receiving bailout money from hiring H-1B employees. But this notion is entirely false, McNeill and Nguyen said. A survey conducted by the National Foundation for American Policy shows that 65 percent of high-tech companies employed people outside the US due to their inability to obtain H-1B visas. It shows that H-1B visas spur economic growth. On average, for every H-1B employee hired, an additional five American employees were also hired. The two researchers said if the US Congress were to increase the H-1B cap to 195,000 visas, the US government would receive an additional 2 billion US dollars of tax revenue each year. Meanwhile, Jeff Flake, Republican member of the US House of Representatives, last week introduced what he called the Stopping Trained in America PhDs From Leaving the Economy Act of 2009 (STAPLE) to stem a reverse brain drain of highly skilled immigrants, mainly from India and China, due to the economic downturn. The bills acronym, STAPLE, represents the stapling of science, technology, engineering and mathematics PhD degrees onto green cards, which means foreign students who have earned PhD degrees in the US can go directly to apply for green cars to stay in the country permanently.