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Iowa Report: Even Undocumented Immigrants Boost State Economy

Wednesday, 16 Jul 2014 09:02 PM

By Sean Piccoli

Immigrants in Iowa, regardless of their legal status, compose a substantial part of the Hawkeye State's workforce, tax base and overall economy, and would contribute even more if federal immigration reform were passed, a research associate for the Iowa Policy Project told Newsmax TV on Wednesday.

"They are, in fact, an important part of the economy, and this goes for undocumented workers as well as documented," Heather Gibney, co-author of the Iowa Policy Project's new report on immigrants and the economy, told "MidPoint" host Ed Berliner.

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With anxieties over illegal immigration heightened by a surge of new arrivals to the U.S., "Immigrants in Iowa: What New Iowans Contribute to the State Economy" offers a generally upbeat view of one state's experience.

The report says the estimated 120,000 immigrants living in Iowa make up 4.3 percent of the state's population and, representing one out of every 20 Iowa workers, account for 4.5 percent of the state's economic output.

Employed as butchers, housekeepers, school teachers, computer programmers and in a variety of other occupations, they pay $64 million annually in state and local taxes, said Gibney.

"All immigrants, regardless of their legal status, are paying taxes," said Gibney. "They're paying sales taxes through the purchases that they [make]. They're paying property taxes through either rent or the homes that they own. And they're paying federal and state excise taxes through things like gasoline."

She said the report found that comprehensive immigration reform would bring undocumented workers more fully into Iowa's economy, with a corresponding boost in economic productivity and tax revenue.

"Undocumented immigrants would be able to go to school," said Gibney. "They could get higher-paying jobs, they would have more skills, they could invest in their own education. Employers would invest in their training and education because they would know they had a secure future here in the United States."

She also said reform would help, not harm, native-born U.S. workers, who "would no longer have to compete with undocumented workers who are not being paid what they should be because of wage theft or because of other employment abuses. So, there's a lot of positive benefits to immigration."

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