RICHMOND (AP) – Illegal immigrants contribute an estimated $400 million to Virginia’s economy annually in taxes, according to a study released Thursday by a group hoping to counter some anti-illegal immigrant sentiment in the legislature.
The Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis estimates that illegal immigrants contribute between $379 million and $453 million a year in income, sales, property and other taxes.
“Some of the strongest voices against immigration in Virginia have characterized undocumented immigrants as takers, as people who do not contribute to our state and to our community. This research clearly demonstrates that they are wrong,” said Michael Cassidy, executive director of the organization.
The study recognizes there is no way to calculate exactly how much illegal immigrants pay in taxes.
It uses figures from a 2005 Pew Hispanic Center study that estimates there are 250,000 to 300,000 illegal immigrants in Virginia. The center estimates that Virginia’s at least 109,000 undocumented households earns an average of $27,400 annually, resulting in at about $3 billion in income.
“Like all other workers in our state, they spend that money,” Cassidy said. “And like most low-wage workers, they spend almost all of that money.”
Cassidy said the study accounted for about $4,000 each year that would be sent back to the immigrant’s home country and not put back into the economy.
The study estimated that about half of the illegal immigrant workers paid income taxes, meaning they and their employers also contributed to Social Security and Medicare, benefits they are ineligible to receive.
The study was not enough to convince some anti-illegal immigrant legislators that undocumented aliens contribute to society.
“Most of them are here to take what they can, send it home and not assimilate and not do what immigrants for the last 200 years have done in this country by coming here and wanting to become Americans,” said Republican Del. Jeffrey Frederick of Prince William, where the local government has taken strides to crack down on illegal immigration.
“They want to come here and take what they can and send it home and leave when they can — take billions of dollars out of our economy and send it to Central and South America,” he said.
Frederick authored at least five bills to counter illegal immigration.
Out of more than 100 bills filed in the House, measures succeeded that would prohibit illegal immigrants from attending public colleges and universities, deny bail for and report to federal authorities those in the country illegally who commit crimes, require businesses to lose their licenses if the owners are convicted of hiring illegal aliens, and require the governor to enter into an agreement with federal immigration officials to enforce illegal immigration laws.
The Senate has been less receptive to anti-illegal immigrant legislation.