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Immigrants and Public Benefits

PSN on GRITtv: Beyond SB 1070: Immigration Bills and the States


Suman Raghunathan, PSN's Immigration Policy Specialist, joined State Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (AZ) and Laura Flanders of GRITtv to discuss how progressive state legislators across the nation are fighting back against draconian right-wing anti-immigrant legislation, and advancing common-sense immigration solutions on both the state and federal level.

WaPo: Advocates for immigrants turn to state legislatures to block Arizona-style law

Advocates demanding stricter rules against illegal immigration -- including those backing Arizona's new law clamping down on undocumented immigrants -- have long argued that state lawmakers have been forced to act because of Congress's reluctance to take the lead.

But with little sign that Congress will act on comprehensive immigration reform this year, advocates for immigrants are also taking matters into their own hands. Like their political opponents, they have turned to their state legislatures to fight back.

In states from Pennsylvania to Utah, a battle of bills has been taking place between those who want to reproduce the Arizona law, which hands police more power to detain anyone they suspect of being in the country illegally, and those who want to extend further rights to immigrants.

Dreaming of a Better Tomorrow: In-State Tuition at the Forefront

States across the country are proposing in-state college tuition rates for undocumented students, a move mirrored by Congress' proposed DREAM Act, which was re-introduced at the federal level on March 25th. Currently ten states allow undocumented immigrants to enroll in state colleges and universities under the cheaper in-state tuition rate category: California, Illinois, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, and Washington. In recent years, anti-immigrant legislators sought to modify or repeal laws providing access to in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants, though they've failed each time. This session, those efforts failed again in Utah and Nebraska. Kansas didn't even bring up repealing it.

PSN immigrant taxation and benefits model resolution (drafted for Georgia)

A RESOLUTION REQUESTING THAT THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT PROVIDE GREATER FUNDING AND ASSISTANCE TO THE STATE OF GEORGIA TO OFFSET THE TAXES PAID BY IMMIGRANT TAXPAYERS YET NOT DISTRIBUTED TO THE STATE TO FUND NECESSARY SERVICES FOR THOSE RESIDENTS MANDATED BY THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT

Overview

Many of the attacks on immigrants are focused on the idea that undocumented immigrants use more benefits than they pay in taxes.  Advocates first need to highlight the multiple studies that have shown that even when you total up the limited services for which they do qualify -- public school education and emergency medical care for example -- undocumented immigrants pay significantly more in state taxes than states spend on those benefits.  The Texas State Controller, for example, estimated that undocumented immigrants added over $17 billion to the state economy and paid over $400 million more in taxes than they received in benefits from the state.

Progressives need to emphasize three key points beyond educating the population:

  • When draconian ID requirements are imposed, legal citizens, not undocumented immigrants, lose more benefits under such policies;
  • The costs of trying to screen out undocumented immigrants are higher than their current burden to taxpayers;
  • Federal level anti-immigrant politicians have made the problem worse for state and local leaders by denying federal aid for communities needing financial help.

State leaders need to both  document the myths promoted by anti-immigrant forces, but also promote policies that emphasize the ways investing in public services reflects our common values and the long-run economic benefits from such investments.

Core immigrants and public benefits legislation should:

New PSN Report: The Anti-Immigrant Movement that Failed

Today, the Progressive States Network is releasing a new report: The Anti-Immigrant Movement that Failed: Positive Integration Policies by States Still Far Outweigh Punitive Policies Aimed at New Immigrants.   The Executive Summary is available online, as well as the full report in PDF and HTML format.