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Study Tracks Immigrantion Impact

July 7, 1998

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Immigrants contribute more to American society than they cost, paying $133 billion in federal, state and local taxes last year, two pro-immigrant organizations said in a study issued Tuesday.

``Immigrants are a fiscal bargain to American taxpayers,″ the study’s author, Stephen Moore, an economist at the libertarian Cato Institute think tank, said at a Capitol Hill news conference.

As is invariably the case in the highly polarized immigration debate, the conclusions were immediately challenged by organizations that view the inflow of foreigners in a far less positive light.

Moore acknowledged a ``Grand Canyon disconnect″ in the immigration debate, which has spawned a torrent of divergent studies claiming that immigrants either provide multibillion-dollar economic gains or drain money from the U.S. taxpayer.

Most do agree, however, that in an $8.3 trillion economy, the net effects, whether positive or negative, are slight.

Moore’s work, which draws from the findings of more than two dozen other studies, concludes that the nation’s 25 million immigrants, spanning both legal and illegal aliens, provide a net positive effect to the United States.

Newcomers pay into the Social Security system at a far higher rate than they draw; create jobs; and come here for the most part already educated, the study said.

The Federation for American Immigration Reform, which advocates a freeze on new arrivals, labeled the Cato findings ``junk science.″ The Center for Immigration Studies, which favors reduced immigration levels, said the Cato report omitted the costs of immigration, including its effects on low-income Americans harmed by the inflow of cheap labor.

Critics also said the report underestimates the drain on state and local governments where immigrants congregate in the greatest numbers. More than half of all immigrants live in just six states, with heavy concentrations in California, Florida, Texas and New York.

And, they said, although immigrants account for nearly 10 percent of U.S. households, their share of the tax burden amounts to 7.5 percent.

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