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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 8/14/10

Immigration -" We not only can handle it, we need it

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Follow Me on Twitter     Message Mary Bell Lockhart

A friend recently opined that our country can't handle the immigrants coming here, especially unauthorized immigrants. This is linked to other perceptions that the unauthorized don't pay taxes and over-utilize public services. But these claims don't match reality.

To discuss this rationally, (unfortunately) we need to throw out some numbers about the relationship between unauthorized immigrants and the U.S. population. As of June, 2010, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated our total civilian, non-institutional population as 237.7 million. Of those, the labor force is 153.7 million, 139 million of whom are employed and 14 million are unemployed in this recession. These figures INCLUDE immigrant workers regardless of status.

Based on Department of Homeland Security estimates, the U.S. unauthorized immigrant population is around 11 million. That works out to about 4.6% of total population. Under the extreme assumption that all of the 84% of unauthorized immigrants age 18 to 54 yrs are workers, that would be a maximum 6% of the workforce. So, we're not talking about huge percentages of either the population or the workforce. We can accommodate that. In fact, we're already doing it!

Unauthorized immigrants most certainly ARE paying taxes. They pay sales taxes on their purchases and user fees on services just like everyone else. They pay property taxes directly and indirectly. They even pay income taxes, Social Security and Medicare when these are taken out of their wages by the government. (Social Security is holding over $400 billion in funds that immigrants paid but can't receive in benefits.)

They also contribute to the US economy through their spending which creates other jobs. Investigations have revealed they are not sending all or even most of their earnings back to their country of origin. Furthermore, they often work in low-wage industries, which results in savings for employers and purchasers of their products.

Determining the costs and benefits of immigration to our economy is complicated, with different results derived from differing assumptions. However, most analysts find immigration likely is an overall benefit (some have estimated $13 billion per year or 1% of the whole economy). Some employers and consumers benefit and taxpayers in some states, like Texas, have higher immigrant populations and costs.

While claiming to be business-friendly, the leadership of Arizona has just dealt an economic blow to their own people during a deep recession. After implementation of their prejudicial law, even with the federal stay of the worst parts of it, LEGAL immigration has dropped 17%. It hasn't had any effect on crime, of course, but the businesses of Arizona are already hurting.

Do unauthorized immigrants "overuse" government services? Contrary to what you may have heard, as a group, immigrants, especially unauthorized immigrants, tend NOT to utilize government services. When they do, the cost is short-term; in the long run they more than reimburse us for the services they receive.

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Mary Bell Lockhart Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

I'm a retired public health worker focused these days on supporting a variety of progressive issues, such as criminal justice reform, energy efficiency, environmental protection, universal health care, civil rights, and worldwide peace and (more...)

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