By Armando Bellmas
Immigrants contribute substantially to North Carolina’s economy. The 2010 purchasing power of North Carolina’s Latino population totaled $14.2 billion — an increase of 1,601.2% since 1990. The state’s 21,301 Latino-owned businesses had sales and receipts of $4.2 billion and employed over 19,000 people.
With 5.4% (or 250,000 workers) of North Carolina’s workforce comprised of unauthorized immigrants, the assumption of many residents, including State Representatives in Raleigh, is that unauthorized immigrants are a burden to the economy and resources of our state. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Unauthorized immigrants in North Carolina, in households that potentially include U.S. Citizens, paid $317.7 million in state and local taxes in 2010. These taxes, vital sources of revenue for the state of North Carolina, include state income taxes, property taxes (even if they rent), and sales taxes. North Carolina ranks 10th in the nation as a state that receives the most tax revenue from households headed by unauthorized immigrants. These figures should be kept in mind as politicians and commentators continue with the seemingly endless debate over what to do with unauthorized immigrants already living in the United States. In spite of the fact that they lack legal status, these immigrants — and their family members — are adding significant value to the North Carolina economy; not only as taxpayers, but as workers, consumers, and entrepreneurs as well.
Anti-immigrant legislation in North Carolina could potentially cost billions in lost economic activity and litigation costs. Arizona has spent nearly $2 million to date defending itself against lawsuits stemming from S.B. 1070. The Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association estimates that the losses stemming from its own anti-immigrant legislation will total at least $250 million in 2011 alone. Conservative estimates show that it would cost Alabama $2.8 billion if it were to deport all 120,000 unauthorized immigrants under its anti-immigrant law H.B. 56.
With government agencies, like the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), and the Department of Revenue (DOR), already facing multi-million dollar resource shortages, anti-immigrant legislation doesn’t make sense. It will cost taxpayers more money, waste vital resources, and undermines common sense.
Simply put: North Carolina can’t afford anti-immigrant legislation.
[Note: The House Select Committee on the State’s Role in Immigration Policy convenes for the second time since its creation in November of 2011 to discuss North Carolina’s role in immigration policy. This meeting, scheduled for Wednesday, January 25, 2012 at 1:00 pm in Raleigh, will focus on reports from DHHS, DMV, DOR.]