Tuesday, February 28, 2006

A Response to the Mississippi Report

Greg Siskind responds to the Mississippi report on the costs of illegal immigration on the state that was mentioned on the blog yesterday:

Dan Kowalski forwarded me the link to a new Mississippi state-funded study at

http://www.osa.state.ms.us/documents/performance/illegal-immigration.pdf

that makes some incredibly shoddy findings regarding the economic impact of illegal immigrants on Mississippi. I've read the whole report and it is rife with bogus conclusions, dubious citations, editorializing, etc. Here are a few of my thoughts and feel free to use what you like:

1. The report first states this conclusion:

"While the State receives some revenue in the form of income taxes and sales taxes, the overall cost to Mississippi appear to be significant, especially in the area of health care, education and corrections. Best-case scenario
estimates in this report suggest that illegal immigrants may contribute $44 million in sales and income taxes to the State economy." The report then estimates health care costs at $35 million, education at $24 million and corrections at just $237,360. Thus, the net raw costs, if you believe the numbers, are about $25,000,000.

The report fails to then take the next step which would be what it would cost the state if all of the undocumented left. North Carolina estimates that its largely undocumented Hispanic population spends $9 billion per year in the state. Even if we assume Mississippi is much smaller than this, the impact of the departure would mean more than lost taxes. The reduction in billions of dollars annually spent in the state would presumably have a ripple effect in terms of jobs that depend on this spending, taxes paid by businesses that cater to Hispanics, etc. And then there are other effects
that should be measured. Mississippi is heavily dependent on tourism. Hurricane Katrina already has many employers straining for survival. What will happen if labor costs skyrocket because of a lack of availability of
workers?

2. The estimates on the costs of illegal immigrants to the state are way out of sync with others. North Carolina's estimate is $102 per Hispanic. Mississippi has it at $510 per person. The authors try to say that the other studies are not reliable because they don't distinguish between legal and illegal immigrants. But then they fail to explain why illegal workers are
more costly than legal immigrants. Are the costs of educating legal immigrant children less? Are the costs of
health care for uninsured legal immigrants less? In fact, legal immigrants have access to many public benefits that illegal immigrants do not so arguably the net cost to society is actually LESS in the case of illegal immigrants and legal immigrants.

By the way, the report bases some of its conclusions of the anti-immigrant Center for Immigration Studies.

3. The report purports to be designed to be objective and state simply what the economic impact of illegal immigration is on the state. But then it is peppered with statements like this:

"Regardless of anything else, illegal aliens are here in violation of state and federal law. Arguments are made that they do jobs that Americans do not want. However, what they really do is potentially displace skilled and unskilled workers because they are willing to work for lower wages and less benefits than those established by the federal government. As a result, the over the last several decades, the percentage of foreign workers in certain industries has increased significantly." Is this a report issued by FAIR or a government agency?

4. The estimate of 49,000 undocumented immigrants is not based on any scientific numbers other than picking the average of many estimates out there. But the ranges cited are from 9,000 to 90,000. If the number is
really a lot closer to 9,000, then most of the conclusions of the report would be highly exaggerated. The recently released Migration Policy Institute study puts the foreign-born Hispanic population in Mississippi at
just 13,000 and only a total of 23,000 legal and illegal immigrants. If one is conservative and assumes 1/2 of the immigrant population is illegal, you're still looking at only 12,000 or so. That's less than 25% of the
estimate the report authors are using.

5. The report makes a number of dubious assumptions regarding tax payments by immigrants such as that all those paying income taxes are claiming the maximum number of exemptions. And there is no mention of the billions of
dollars of social security taxes paid that will never be claimed as well as FICA and other taxes. It also fails to quantify the tax revenues indirectly generated by Hispanics as noted above.

The report hints that it is underestimating the real costs because it is not calculating the impact on programs like Medicaid and worker's compensation. But the authors are not being honest here since illegal immigrants - unlike legal immigrants - are not eligible for the programs that are mentioned.

Anyway, there is a lot to make you upset and if the report goes unanswered, then the anti-immigrants will have won a nice little victory.

Gregory Siskind, Attorney at Law
Siskind Susser - Immigration Lawyers
email: gsiskind@visalaw.com
Web: www.visalaw.com

KJ

https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/immigration/2006/02/a_response_to_t.html

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