YAKIMA — Undocumented immigrants paid $292 million in state and local taxes in Washington in 2010, according to a new study.
Released this week by the nonprofit Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, the study ranks the state 10th in the nation for most taxes paid by undocumented immigrants that year. Nationwide in 2010, the study says undocumented immigrants paid $10.6 billion in state and local taxes.
“Like other people living and working in the United States, undocumented immigrants currently contribute a significant share of their income to state and local taxes,” the Washington, D.C.-based institute wrote in the report.
If the House were to pass a Senate bill that includes a path to citizenship for an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants, those tax collections would only increase, according to the study. The study projects a more than $20 million increase in tax collections in the state from these individuals per year if the reform bill is approved.
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The study had findings similar to a Congressional Budget Office analysis of the Senate’s immigration reform bill, released earlier this year. That report found that the bill would add $450 billion in federal tax revenues over the next 10 years.
Opponents of comprehensive immigration reform have released their own studies, arguing the potential cost to taxpayers if Congress approves a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. In May, the conservative Heritage Foundation released a study that estimated that provision of the Senate bill would cost taxpayers $6.3 trillion over the next 50 years when accounting for costs to welfare programs and general public services such as education.
The study by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy relied on four main data points: The estimated undocumented immigrant population in each state; the average number of people living in families where at least one adult is undocumented; the average annual family income of undocumented immigrants in each state; and the estimated effective tax rates for income, sales and property taxes paid by low- and moderate-income families in each state.
There were approximately 230,000 undocumented immigrants living in Washington state in 2010, according to the Pew Hispanic Center. “I think anyone who’s interested in strengthening our state economy would be supportive of immigration reform now,” Charlie McAteer, a spokesman for the Seattle-based immigrant advocacy group OneAmerica said. “This is more proof that the contributions immigrant workers are already making to our state can be fortified if we provide a pathway to citizenship.”
But Bob West of Grassroots of Yakima Valley, an organization against immigration reform, said he’s not surprised that undocumented workers generate tax revenue, but that revenue alone doesn’t reflect the whole economic impact of undocumented immigrants.
“It means nothing unless you can calculate increased benefits paid and the difference between the two,” West said. “We’ve got to figure out the net financial impact.”