The debate rages on after the first ever state-funded study on the economic impact of undocumented immigrants was revealed in Dec. 2006. The financial analysis was done in Texas and specifically evaluated the influence of an estimated 1.6 million illegal aliens - about 6 percent of that state's population. Now Utah is in a position to do a study of its own - and it should.
While the Texas Controller, Carolyn Strayhorn, said the study findings showed that illegal immigrants put in about $420 million more into Lone Star State coffers than they took out in 2005, critics say the study was flawed for not taking into account that Texas does not have an income tax, and therefore, did not account for unreported cash wages. Furthermore, that undocumented immigrants actually cost taxpayers $3.7 billion annually, critics said.
The study tried to make the intangible real by using identifying factors such as gross state product, revenues generated, taxes paid and the cost of state services. It's no wonder the study drew wide-spread attention and controversy because it contradicts the idea that immigrants drain the system more than they put into it.
Aside from the clash of viewpoints, the study has brought attention to the need to know exactly how undocumented immigrants are affecting states within the Union. The jury may still be out on whether they are positive contributors or not, but the main emphasis is determining the answer to set appropriate policy.
A Virginia Senate committee is considering a proposal for a two-year study on the impact that illegal immigrants have on its schools, health care system and law enforcement agencies. It wouldn't be a bad idea for Utah to do something similar, which has been proposed by Sen. Scott McCoy, D-Salt Lake City.
The Utah Senate agreed to let him open a late bill file to call for "a study of the economic and budgetary impact of undocumented immigrants on the state of Utah," reported published accounts. His resolution is still being drafted. However, it is our sincere desire that it gets finished and is proposed before the end of the 2007 Legislative General Session so it can be completed by the 2009 Legislature.
A research study is needed and would shed some much-needed light on the illegal immigrant population here in Utah and what it's doing. That knowledge will be incredibly useful since Utah's foreign-born population grew 21.6 percent between 2000 and 2005 - to an estimated 192,916 persons - according to data from the American Community Survey.
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