As the national debate over immigration plays out in Congress and along the Southwest border, a new report shows that immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally contribute about $64 million in state and local taxes in Iowa each year.
The report, published by the Iowa Policy Project, also suggests that immigration reform at the federal level would push an additional $16.5 million into state coffers each year.
"I think what spurred us was an interest in trying to have a more calm and informed debate about immigration policy, which requires understanding [of] who immigrants are and what contributions they make to the economy," said Peter Fisher, a co-author of the report and research director for the nonpartisan group, which analyzes tax and revenue data.
About 120,000 immigrants live in Iowa, and nearly 75,000 are in the U.S. illegally, Fisher said. With Iowa's median age trending upward, immigrants help bolster Iowa's workforce and economy, the report said.
Nearly 80% of the immigrants in Iowa are of working age, between 18 and 64, the report says, while 60% of native-born Iowans fall into that demographic.
A similar report issued in 2013 by the Fiscal Policy Institute, a nonprofit research group that aims to improve public policy, showed that immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally paid $744 million in state and local taxes in New York.
That report asserted that immigration reform would raise the tax benefits to $968 million.
Fisher told The Times that immigration reform would probably lead to similar financial gains in other states.
"I think that's a general conclusion and it comes from other research that has provided estimates of the wage increases that would follow from authorization and providing provisional work status," he said.
The report comes as a crush of Central American immigrants, many of them children traveling alone, slip across the Texas border. From Oct. 1 to June 15, immigration officials apprehended more than 52,000 unaccompanied minors at the Southwest border — about double the number from the same period during the previous fiscal year. In part, the influx is spurred by false rumors that children and families are allowed to stay in the U.S. when violence in their home countries is also a factor.
Officials have sent the immigrants to various shelters outside Texas. In Murrieta on Tuesday, protesters blocked three buses carrying about 140 immigrants.
Bipartisan immigration legislation passed the Senate last year but has languished in the Republican-controlled House. Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) has said he will not bring the Senate measure up for a vote.