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Fact or Fiction

Sad as it may be, it is a fact that when most people think of immigration in the United States, they likely call to mind fear-fueled myths perpetuated by immigration restrictionists, like “immigrants are stealing American jobs” or “immigrants are a drain on our system.” Yet when anti-immigrant enthusiasts come up with their emotionally charged rhetoric, they hardly ever check their facts to make sure that what they are saying is true. This realization is what spurred the Immigration Policy Center to publish a fact sheet on each state to show just how much immigrants, specifically Latinos and Asians, contribute to our country as consumers, taxpayers, workers, entrepreneurs, and voters.

Legislators in Alabama passed on the most extreme anti-immigrant laws last year in response to their perceived “immigration problem.” When pairing up the data, it is clear that what the state officials used as evidence to enact their immigration law was less comparable to facts than they were to fiction. According to The Pew Hispanic Center, Alabama’s undocumented population was 2.5% (or 120,000 people) in 2010, which is lower than in 22 other states. Yet while Alabama’s undocumented population may be smaller than other states, their economic contributions are not since from them the state racked up more than $130 million in state and local taxes in 2010 alone. Despite this fact, Alabama, which faces a $979 million budget gap in 2012, would rather run the risk of alienating their documented immigrants whose combined purchasing power was nearly $6 billion in 2010. Another extreme state immigration law that went into effect was in Georgia, requiring people to show certain forms of identification. Business leaders in the state are worried that this will slow commerce and hurt an already struggling economy, especially since Latino and Asian businesses in Georgia had sales and receipts of $20.6 billion and employed nearly 110,000 people. In California, whose undocumented population paid $2.7 billion in state and local taxes in 2010, an attempt has been made to overturn the California DREAM Act, which allow undocumented students to enroll in the state’s public colleges and universities and apply for state-based funding. This attempt comes despite studies showing that by 2025, California will not have enough college graduates to keep up with economic demand. So why would the state even consider repealing a law that is expected to play a critical role in boosting the number of college grads? It is beyond all reason.

Facts don’t lie. Immigrants have and will continue to account for large and growing shares of state economies and populations. Can state legislators actually afford to alienate such a critical part of its educated labor force, tax base, businesses community? Even though many would be inclined to continue their tales of fiction, the cold-hard facts speak otherwise. It is time for legislators to once and for all open their eyes to reality.

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