Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Immigrants inject $1.6B into Nebraska Economy.

Immigrants add $1.6 billion annually in spending to the state's economy and fill a critical role in the work force, according to a new study that was to be released Wednesday by the University of Nebraska at Omaha.Officials with the university's Office of Latino/Latin American Studies, or OLLAS, who issued the report called the study the first statewide quantitative assessment of the contributions Nebraska immigrants _ both legal and Undocumented _ make to the state's economy. Available data didn't allow the report's authors to differentiate between the economic impact of Undocumented versus legal immigrants.
But the policy brief does make a few inferences _ the first being that undocumented migrants are largely employed and are contributing to production, employment and taxes similar to legal immigrants."Moreover, it would be reasonable to also assume that the economic contributions of unauthorized immigrants are more than likely underestimated by all accounts, and that their public costs are likely lower than for authorized immigrants or the native born as a whole," a draft of the policy brief says. The report's author, Christopher Decker, an assistant professor of economics, was traveling and unavailable for comment on the study's methodology or other details Tuesday. Jerry Deichert with the university's Center for Public Affairs Research also contributed to the report. Deichert and OLLAS Director Lourdes Gouveia did not return phone messages Tuesday seeking comment. According to a draft of an policy brief that summarizes the report's key findings and lays out policy recommendations, immigrants created about 12,000 jobs across all sectors of the state's economy in 2006. And the loss of the foreign-born work force could cost the state $13.5 billion and thousands of jobs. The loss of immigrants would be devastating for the state's economy, particularly in communities whose main industries depend on the "injection of a new and young labor force and a generation of children willing to stay in those communities," OLLAS officials write in the policy brief. Immigrants make up 5.6 percent of the state's population, according to the report. It's a 33 percent increase since 2000. But immigrants represent only 4.28 percent of the public sector costs to the state.OLLAS officials lay out several recommendations, including federal immigration reform to remove unnecessary impediments to citizenship, state and local efforts focused on immigrant and community integration and improved training programs, including those that boost English proficiency.The brief goes on to say the report presents an opportunity to move from the "politics of division" _ fueled by misunderstandings or denial _ to the "politics of immigrant and community integration.The state's leadership must reject "paralyzing, anti-immigrant and anti-Hispanic rhetoric that often passes as informed analysis," according to the report, and instead craft "informed policies that will prevent us from squandering immigrants' contributions.".

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