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Saturday, September 23, 2017
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Shoddy reporting on immigrants, taxes

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REPORT AND REPORTERS STUDIOUSLY IGNORE FACTS

The Partnership for a New American Economy report released this week breathlessly touting the financial contributions of immigrants to our national economy.

A report was issued for each state and it was taken at face value by the Alaska Dispatch News, without an iota of critical thinking applied by either the report or the reportage.

The Alaska report itself is a fluffy piece of propaganda favoring open immigration laws and regulations, which is why the benefits of immigration are glowingly detailed at length.

Yet the report carefully avoids reporting any of the costs of legal immigration, illegal immigration, and refugees. It is a dishonest “study,” and readers are being hoodwinked when the newspaper falls for it as gospel.

According to the report, immigrants in Alaska grew by more than 19 percent between the years of 2010-2014, while the immigrant population nationally grew by under 6 percent.

With immigration occurring in Alaska at more than three times the national rate, readers deserve a critical look at both sides of the social and economic equation.

The report claims: “In 2014, immigrant-led households in Alaska earned $1.8 billion dollars—or 8.2 percent of all income earned by Alaskans that year. With those earnings, the state’s foreign-born households were able to contribute more than one in every 13 dollars paid by Alaska residents in state and local tax revenues, payments that support important public services such as public schools and police.”

Some $60.7 million went to state and local taxes from immigrants, the report says. This is a remarkable assertion, since residents pay no state taxes and few local taxes. There’s no mention of whether immigrants pay property taxes, since there’s no mention of home ownership. And yet, the Dispatch passes this information along to the unsuspecting reader as solid data.

If the report is correct that immigrant-led households earned $1.8 billion, and paid $435 million in combined taxes, that is an extraordinary deal for immigrants, in the less than 25 percent tax range. Most tax-paying Americans (at least the 49 percent who pay federal taxes) give the government more than 33 percent in total taxes.

The report continues on to say immigrants are more likely to work than “native-born” Alaskans. The report fails to mention that this is not unusual at all, and has always been the case, since immigrants tend to be more able-bodied, and that very few disabled, aged, very sick, or mentally ill people are admitted to the country, and those same disabled, aged, very sick, or mentally ill populations also don’t have the stamina to survive the trip that most illegals must make. Those allowed legal entrance are somewhat screened for their abilities to work.

OTHER FACTS GO UNREPORTED

Illegal immigrants, in fact, are not properly separated out in the report, but a quick peek at data available from the Heritage Foundation shows that illegal immigrants use more in benefits than they contribute in taxes. This is not a criticism, but a statement of fact as presented by a credible research organization.

The Heritage Foundation study discovered that illegal residents contribute about $10,000 in total taxes (federal, state and local taxes) but use $24,000 in entitlements and social services. Thus, the average illegal immigrant costs $14,000 more than he or she contributes through taxes.

Steven A. Camarota, director of research at the Center for Immigration Studies, says the cost per illegal immigrant is actually much higher than that.

His analysis shows that 62 percent of households headed by illegal immigrants were clients of at least one significant welfare program, according to a statement he made to Investors Business Daily. 

“Bottom line, illegal immigrants have a 10th grade education on average,” he said. “In the modern American economy people with that level of education tend to make modest wages and as result pay relatively little in taxes, at the same time they tend to use a lot in public services, regardless of legal status. In the case of illegals, they often receive benefits on behalf of their U.S.-born children. If you had to put it in a bumper sticker it would be: ‘there is a high cost to cheap labor.’ ”

Camarota published his own “native” vs. “immigrants” employment statistics last month. In his usage, “native” means “American born.” His study did not receive the kind of coverage that the propagandists received in the media, but is worth a look because it shows remarkable stability through time.

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Immigrants may offer many benefits to our society and our state. There is no doubt they enrich our lives and our communities and help us understand the world.

But let’s see the facts, rather than a romanticized, scrubbed version of them packaged to push an agenda — at least if it’s front-page material offered up as news.

Written by

Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

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