Miami's Undocumented Immigrants Contribute $437 Million in Taxes Each Year

Last week, as Miami-Dade commissioners voted 9-3 to comply with President Donald Trump's harsh new immigration policies, dozens of residents stormed out of County Hall, shouting, "Shame on you!" The pleas of mothers, fathers, daughters, and sons who had asked commissioners to reconsider seemingly weren't enough. Commissioner Rebeca Sosa went as far as to say those emotional appeals for empathy were irrelevant.

"We all have stories, stories that can get to the heart of anyone," she said.

But if sob stories won't do it, maybe the cold, hard economics will: Today a new report from Florida International University urges lawmakers to consider the loss of tax revenue Miami-Dade would face if the county helps Trump round up and deport undocumented immigrants. In South Florida, the metro area with the state's largest population of undocumented people, the report shows that group of immigrants contributes more than $437 million in local and state taxes each year.

FIU researcher Alí R. Bustamante says the analysis is a direct response to Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez's explanation that the county can't afford the loss of federal tax dollars that would come with resisting Trump's order.

"This was certainly a reactionary piece to that," Bustamante tells New Times. "What was missing was the wider picture that tax contributions work both ways. Certainly, the federal government does contribute to local and state revenues, but so do undocumented immigrants."

Bustamante's study used data estimates of the 2014 undocumented population in Florida's 11 largest metro areas to calculate how much those immigrants pay in taxes each year. In the Orlando area, tax revenues from undocumented people totaled nearly $107 million. All told, Florida's undocumented immigrant population pours an estimated $772.7 million into state and local coffers each year.
Courtesy of FIU
His report also points to other datasets that show immigrants provide an economic boost to the communities in which they live. He cites a study released last year by the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine that showed both legal and undocumented immigrants produced net benefits of $50 billion per year to native-born Americans, based on an analysis from 1990 to 2010. That report also says America's first-generation immigrants contributed $2 trillion to the U.S. economy in 2015 alone.

Bustamante says he hopes other cities will look at the data before making a decision either way.

"Most jurisdictions have been looking at legal arguments... but the economic impact has been relatively missing from this debate," he says. "Given the potential prospect of mass deportations, it certainly behoves local governments to consider fiscal implication."
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Jessica Lipscomb is the former news editor of Miami New Times.

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