The Immigrant Learning Center has released a new study on the fiscal impact
of new arrivals.
By Travis Andersen
The Malden-based Immigrant Learning Center has released a study claiming that new arrivals help the state economy rather than hurt it, citing figures from the US Census Bureau.
"There is so much hysteria about immigrants," said Marcia Hohn, public education director at the center. "The idea that they don't pay taxes, suck our welfare coffers dry, and don't give anything back. We're trying to show that that's not true, in fact."
The center commissioned UMass-Boston professors Alan Clayton-Matthews and Paul Watanabe to conduct the study, entitled "Massachusetts Immigrants by the Numbers: Demographic Characteristics and Economic Footprint." They released their findings at a State House news conference last week.
The researchers found that in 2007, nearly half of an estimated 900,000 immigrants in Massachusetts were naturalized citizens. The immigrant population paid $1.2 billion in state income taxes in 2005, the study found, as well as $346 million in sales and excise taxes in 2006, and $1.06 billion in local property taxes in 2007.
In addition, the researchers found that Malden had the second-highest concentration of immigrants in the state, behind Chelsea.
They plugged Census figures into a tax analysis formula to get their numbers - which don't add up, according to Jim Rizoli of Concerned Citizens and Friends of Illegal Immigration Law Enforcement, a Framingham-based group seeking a crackdown on undocumented workers.
"They don't pay for anything," Rizoli said, claiming that Framingham spends millions on English language instruction for undocumented children. "The amount of tax paid on a candy bar or a bar of soap is minimal (compared to city expenditures)."
On Wednesday, Gov. Deval Patrick will receive the center's study as part of a report on immigrant life in Massachusetts, which he commissioned last summer.
Hohn said she hopes the report - and the study in particular - will help Patrick and state lawmakers reach common ground on such hot-button issues as driver's licenses for the undocumented and in-state college tuition for their children, among other concerns.
"It's about creating a welcoming environment as opposed to a hostile environment," Hohn said. "So immigrants can thrive, learn English, and pay taxes."