A new study says Arizona’s economy is expanding faster in part because of the work of undocumented immigrants.
The report, from a researcher at UCLA, says illegal immigrants send hundreds of millions of dollars into state coffers each year.
Critics say the state spends much more on public services for undocumented immigrants than it collects from them.
The research report was authored by Raul Hinojosa-Ojeda, director of the North American Integration and Development Center at the UCLA.
Hinojosa-Ojeda says of the estimated 400,000 immigrants estimated to have been in Arizona in 2010, about 211,000 were working and paying taxes to the state.
“The tax revenue from those undocumented workers resulted in about $2.4 billion to the state," he says. "Now, the entire economic activity that those 211,000 undocumented workers produced is $13.3 billion.”
Hinojosa-Ojeda says immigrants are contributing heavily to Arizona’s economy and would add even more if they were legally employed.
“As more people work they’re adding more value and as they are adding more value, they’re gaining more and spending more and generating more taxes,” he says.
If the state were to deport its illegal workers, it would lose up to $2.5 billion in tax revenues each year, Hinojosa-Ojeda says.
He also says that Arizona’s immigration enforcement law, SB 1070, is hurting economic growth in the state.
“It’s already beginning to hurt the state as there are signs of a type of a recovery where you are going to need more workers and more undocumented workers in particular that have done certain types of work that you can’t find, and that’s going to put a crimp on the growth of the state,” he says.
But critics say illegal immigrants cost the state more than they contribute, and their presence hurts unemployed, low-income legal residents of the state.
Bob Dane, a spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform in Washington, D.C., says the study distorts the economic benefits of illegal immigrants.
“That seems to be only one side of a very dramatic ledger sheet," Dane says. "Arizona has 500,000 illegal aliens costing the state $2.6 billion in the categories of health care and education and incarceration. So that seems a little penny-wise and pound foolish.”
Also critical was William Gheen, president of the Americans for Legal Immigration's political action committee. Gheen calls Honojosa-Ojeda's report a "wacky study from (a) liberal university."
Gheen says the federal government must begin enforcing immigration laws, fining businesses that employ illegal immigrants and "honoring the Constitution," so that "illegal immigrants will start gradually and humanely leaving the United States."
That will allow U.S. citizens find job opportunities, Gheen says.