A Pragmatic Approach to Immigrant Integration

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In the coming year, many states will consider proposed policies that would affect unauthorized immigrants. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a Carnegie Corporation grantee, reviewed some of these policies and took a pragmatic look at how state policymakers can produce a more educated workforce, ensure that more employers pay workers fairly, and help pay for schools and other public services.

The report highlights research that concludes unauthorized immigrants contribute to state economies and finances. They work, pay a larger share of their income in state and local taxes than most, and buy goods and services from businesses across a state.  But because they operate in the shadows of the labor market, employers can exploit them, and they are cut off from many opportunities to earn more and contribute more to a state’s economy and tax base.

In short, their status hurts state economies.  For example, through exploitive practices by employers, their earnings are kept below minimum wage. In addition, if unauthorized workers could improve their skills more easily and obtain jobs that better match those skills, they’d earn higher wages, spend more in the state economy, and contribute more to the tax base from which states fund schools and other investments that are critical to a strong economy.

While states can’t change the status of the unauthorized population, they can take steps to maximize the contributions of all state residents, including unauthorized immigrants. Many states are considering policies that would strengthen labor law enforcement to ensure that all workers are paid what they earn, allow unauthorized immigrants to pay in-state tuition at public colleges and universities, and give unauthorized immigrants access to driver’s licenses, which would help them get better, more rewarding jobs. Read more here.