Accepting Refugees Would Benefit Maryland’s Economy
Governor Larry Hogan and the now more than two dozen governors who have said they intend to block Syrian refugees from entering their states should reconsider their positions. The implication that refugees are allowed to resettle in the United States with little screening is false – refugees undergo more screening and background checks than anyone else traveling to this country – and the suggestion that a person is a security threat by virtue of their nationality is disrespectful to the Syrians who are already part of Maryland communities.
Instead of viewing people whose lives are shattered by world crises as a threat, these governors should take the opportunity to assist families in need and help refugees become valuable contributors to their states’ economies.
Maryland’s economy already relies heavily on the contributions of immigrants, who account for billions of dollars in taxes and consumer purchasing power. Inclusive state immigration policies don’t only help families moving to our state in search of a better life establish themselves. They also enhance Maryland’s ability to pay for roads, schools, and assist other residents in need.
Immigrants make valuable contributions every day to our state’s economy in a number of ways. Like other Marylanders, immigrants work, earn, spend, and pay a range of taxes. The reality is that most immigrants – like other Marylanders — typically pay a larger share of their income in state and local taxes than the top 1 percent of taxpayers do.
Immigrants also spur economic activity across the state by purchasing goods and services from local businesses. In addition to the sales and excise taxes they pay on things like utilities, clothing and gasoline, immigrants also pay property taxes directly on their homes or indirectly as renters, which plays a major role in funding education.
Many unauthorized immigrants also pay state income taxes. The best evidence says that at least 50 percent of unauthorized immigrant households file income tax returns using Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers and many who do not file income tax returns still have taxes deducted from their paychecks.
Unauthorized immigrants in Maryland paid $293.8 million in state and local taxes in 2012, which includes $147.3 million in sales taxes, $68.1 million in personal income taxes, and $78.4 million in property taxes. The total would have been almost 28 percent higher, about $375 million, if unauthorized immigrants in Maryland were lawful permanent residents, according to the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy.
Immigrants wield a significant portion of the purchasing power in Maryland. The 2014 purchasing power of Latinos in Maryland totaled $15.2 billion—an increase of 750% since 1990. Asian buying power totaled $19 billion—an increase of 651% since 1990, according to the Selig Center for Economic Growth at the University of Georgia. Combined, the purchasing power of these two groups is equal to roughly 10 percent of Maryland’s economy.
Immigrants have become an integral part of Maryland’s workforce, as they account for almost 1 in 5 workers in the state of Maryland, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Unauthorized immigrants comprised 6.2% of the state’s workforce (or 200,000 workers) in 2012, according to a report by the Pew Hispanic Center.
States would be wise to leave immigration enforcement to the federal government and focus on creating an environment that provides opportunity for everyone.