Undocumented immigrants help state economy, study says
By Amy Gillentine
Colorado Springs Business Journal
Undocumented immigrants are a significant contributor to the state's economy, according to a new study by the Bell Policy Center and the Colorado Center on Law and Policy.
According to the two groups, illegal immigrants contribute as much to the economy in sales, property and income taxes as they cost the state in mandated services such as K-12 education.
Other research finds:
- Undocumented immigrants account for 5 percent of the state's workforce and 3 percent of the state's personal income. These workers produce 7 percent of Colorado's economic output.
- Activity generated by illegal immigrants account for an additional 91,000 jobs statewide, $4.7 billion in personal income and $15 billion in industry output.
- Illegal immigrants pay an estimated $167.5 million in taxes in 2010, which covered the cost of education, emergency medical care and jail incarceration. The costs of those federally mandated services equaled $166.6 million, according to the Bell Policy Center.
"This analysis clearly shows that claims that undocumented immigrants are the cause of our budget problems are way off base," said Rich Jones, director of policy and research at the Bell Policy Center. "They are not eligible for and do not receive most government services. In fact, they pay enough in taxes to cover the costs of providing federally mandated services to them."
- In Colorado, for every job held by an undocumented immigrant, 0.8 jobs are created.
- Undocumented immigrants work mostly in construction, services, leisure and hospitality and manufacturing.
- Colorado had an estimated 15,763 undocumented students between 5 and 17 years old; funding for them represents less than 2 percent of total state and local K-12 spending.
- Colorado spent $26.5 million to provide emergency medical care to non-citizens in 2010-11 (not all of whom were undocumented immigrants). That total represents just over 0.5 percent of the state budget for health care.
- The net cost of holding undocumented immigrants in jails and prisons in Colorado was $32.5 million in 2009, or about 4.2 percent of the state budget for prisons.
- Undocumented immigrants live in our communities, and like all Colorado consumers pay sales taxes on the goods they buy. In 2010, this amounted to $114.6 million.
- Undocumented immigrants also paid $30.9 million in property taxes, mostly as part of their rent payments.
- Undocumented immigrants have $30.9 million in income taxes withheld from paychecks.
"Labor by undocumented immigrants ripples through all parts of Colorado's economy," said Alec Harris, a policy analyst for the Colorado Center on Law and Policy. "Like all groups of workers, undocumented immigrant workers spend their earnings, which supports local businesses, enabling those companies to hire more workers. It's a positive cycle that stimulates the state's economy."