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NEWS-SENTINEL EDITORIAL: Study shows immigrants make positive impact on Indiana

The Statue of Liberty is a monument to what immigrants mean to the United States. Our country has been a refuge, a new hope, an opportunity for people from all over the world since before we even declared our independence as a nation. And immigrants have continued to make a positive impact on this country throughout our history.

While we may say on the one hand that those who immigrate to our country illegally pose genuine problems today, we strongly believe this country should keep its doors open to those who wish to come here to contribute to our society.

A new report from Ball State University, “Fiscal, Economic & Social Effects of Immigration in the Hoosier State,” supports that premise in our own state, finding that immigrants have made a positive impact on Indiana.

The study’s authors, Emily Wornell, a research assistant professor with the Indiana Communities Institute at Ball State, and Michael Hicks, director of the University’s Center for Business and Economic Research, wrote of their analysis that “it is clear that immigration into Indiana, including unauthorized immigrants, is a net benefit to the state and should be welcomed in every county and municipality. … Overall, we find that immigration, regardless of authorization status, is an important source of fiscal, economic, and demographic health for Indiana’s future.”

The study details the current effects of immigration on demographics, education, wealth and poverty, employment and the labor market. The report included data from the 2012/2016 five-year estimates of the American Community Survey. Among its findings were that immigrants in Indiana are better-educated than the state’s incumbent population, and that not only do immigrants, including unauthorized workers, pay into the public service system through income, payroll, sales and property taxes, they tend to use fewer services than the native-born population and receive less benefit when they do use services.

The Pew Research Center reports that the U.S. has more immigrants than any other country in the world with more than 40 million people living here who were born in another country. According to immigrationforum.org there were 350,000 immigrants living in Indiana last year — more than 5.3% of the state’s total population of 6.7 million.

“While immigration has been at the forefront of a national political debate,” Pew Research says in its immigration summary, “a majority of Americans have positive views about immigrants.” It says 62 percent of Americans say immigrants strengthen the country “because of their hard work and talents,” while only 28 percent say they are a burden to the country by taking jobs, housing and health care.

“Immigration in Indiana is fiscally, educationally and demographically important, and likely marks an environment of increasing economic opportunity,” the Indiana study’s co-author Wornell said in an article in Greater Fort Wayne Business Weekly. “Overall, we find that immigration, regardless of authorization status, is an important source of fiscal, economic and demographic health for Indiana’s future.”

Immigrants in Indiana 16 and older account for 6.1 percent of the state’s total workforce, according to immigrationforum.org. About 66 percent of the state’s immigrants are in the workforce, compared to 64% of the native-born population.

The majority of immigrants to Indiana in recent years have come from Mexico (31.6 percent), India (9.1 percent), China (7.9 percent), the Philippines (3.3 percent) and Myanmar (2.9 percent).

Since cities and small towns throughout the South and Midwest are experiencing booms in immigration, some areas that have experienced large increases in immigrant population since the 1990s have been called “new immigrant destinations.” Wornell said Indiana is one such state as the Ball State study found that immigrant population growth is helping to stabilize the trend of declining populations in 19 Indiana counties.

“Immigrants may represent the best chance for population growth in these communities in the foreseeable future. These newcomers will bolster the local job markets, fill up classrooms, and become contributing members to our communities,” Wornell told GFWBW.

Recent statistics and Ball State’s study combine to show that immigrants are, indeed, a valuable asset to Indiana as well as the nation as a whole. And while the debate over those here illegally continues, we trust it will result in the fair embrace of the exceptional worth of those who come here to pursue the American dream.

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