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Study Shows Undocumented Immigrants Benefit NY

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Only about half of undocumented immigrants currently file income-tax returns. (PRO401(K) 2012/Flickr)
Only about half of undocumented immigrants currently file income-tax returns. (PRO401(K) 2012/Flickr)
 By Andrea Sears - Producer, Contact
March 3, 2017

NEW YORK - Undocumented immigrants contribute about $40 billion a year to New York state's gross domestic product, according to a new report.

Unauthorized immigrants are about 5 percent of the labor force in the state, are responsible for 3 percent of the state's economic output and pay more than $1 billion a year in state and local taxes, the Fiscal Policy Institute research said. David Dyssegaard Kallick, director of the Institute's Immigration Research Initiative, said that tax revenue would increase by another $247 million a year if those people were able to work legally.

"That's partly because they would have better jobs," he said, "and it's partly because now, the estimate is about half of all undocumented immigrants are filing income tax returns. If they had legal status, all of them would file."

The report also predicted that a policy of mass deportation would cause a huge disruption in the state's economy. Kallick said he believes that if the undocumented immigrants currently in New York were removed, the total loss would be much more than billions of dollars in tax revenue and economic output.

"It doesn't include what happens to society if we really become the kind of police state that has constant raids and disruption of businesses, and disruption of communities," he said.

As an example, he pointed to the decline in tourism that already has begun as some foreign travelers avoid visiting the United States. While the Trump administration has indicated it may back off from its extreme stance on immigration enforcement, Kallick noted that the threat of deportation still hangs over the heads of an estimated 817,000 people in New York.

"That's more than the entire population of Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and Yonkers combined," he said. "It would be an enormous undertaking and it would be, I think, hugely disruptive and really kind of horrifying."

A companion study by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy found similar positive economic effects of undocumented immigrants nationwide.

More information is online at fiscalpolicy.org.

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