New research conducted by Progressive Think Tank Keystone Research Center, announced in May, revealed that naturalizing undocumented immigrants in Pennsylvania would substantially benefit the state’s budget. Pennsylvania is home to 900,000 individuals who have an immigrant background, accounting for 7% of Pennsylvania’s population. Among them, 160,000 are undocumented.
Naturalizing Undocumented Immigrants
Muhammed Maisum Murtaza of the Keystone Research Center conducted the study, called – “The economic contribution of Pennsylvania immigrants.” The survey revealed that Pennsylvania employs 94,000 undocumented immigrants. The Center, analyzing data from a survey conducted by the Institute for Tax and Economic Policy in 2017, found that undocumented immigrants account for nearly $135 million in state and local taxes. If these immigrants became U.S. citizens, the tax payments would have increased by $51 million for higher-paying jobs leading to better opportunities for tax filing.
“Immigration-friendly policies aren’t just about economic justice. They will strengthen and expand the contributions immigrants make to the Pennsylvania economy and benefit everyone,” the study said. Murtaza’s research divided Pennsylvania into three categories: labor contributions, economic and tax-based contributions, and non-tax or purchasing power contributions such as academic background and entrepreneurial influence.
Under labor contributions, the survey showed that 9% of Pennsylvania’s front-line workers are foreign-born, 9% belong to the truck/warehousing industry, and 19% are building cleaners. The last three decades have seen a substantial increase in the number of qualified immigrants from 53% in 1990 to 67% in 2019. This accounts for an increase of 850,000 immigrants.
Economic Tax-Based Contributions
The study focused on economic and tax-based contributions, household income, and spending patterns for Pennsylvania immigrants. The survey found that foreign-born residents paid a total of $10 billion, state, local, and federal taxes for the year 2019. “Pennsylvania’s total purchasing power is about $25 billion and total household income is $35 billion.” According to the survey, foreign-born residents will have paid nearly $10 billion in state, local, and federal taxes in 2019.
According to the New American Economy, in the Pittsburgh region alone, immigrants pay $1.2 billion in taxes, household income is $ 3.8 billion, and purchasing power is $ 2.7 billion.
Foreign-Based Individuals Have Higher Graduation Rates
Further, studies show that foreign-born individuals have higher rates of bachelor’s degrees and graduate degrees when compared to U.S.-born individuals. In fact, Pittsburgh has the highest rate of educated immigrants of any city in the United States. The study showed that in 2019, while 20% of foreign-born individuals earned a graduate degree, only 12% of U.S.-born individuals did so.
Undocumented Immigrants Remain Hopeful
The study reveals that immigrants have experienced thriving educational and economic, development, despite having little or no support from the U.S. government. Except for lawful permanent residents, most documented and undocumented immigrants are ineligible for financial assistance. For example, undocumented immigrants did not receive stimulus checks under the American Rescue Program and are not eligible for federal education loans.
President Biden has sent a bill to Congress seeking a major revamp to the immigration system, including an eight-year path to citizenship for an estimated 10.5 million undocumented immigrants along with other policies. Immigrants are waiting to see if any of the reforms mentioned in the bill become law.
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