Hurting America’s Future? The Effect Immigration Has on the Long Island Economy
By Neil A. Carousso
Immigration has been a forefront issue in the presidential campaign with Republican nominee Donald Trump vowing to build a wall along the Southern border and enforcing current immigration laws to ensure people enter the United States through the legal process instead of gaining sanctuary in the U.S. with many overstaying visas.
There are 526,000 immigrants living on Long Island, the site of the first presidential debate, according to the Fiscal Policy Institute’s analysis of the most recent data available from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey for 2013. Throughout the election season, immigration has been discussed extensively as it has been a focal point of Donald Trump’s campaign. Of the more than half a million immigrants in the area, 98,000 people are living in the United States illegally.
“Other than refugees, people are choosing to come here and they’re certainly doing something good for them. It’s good for the overall economy of Long Island as well,” said David Dyssegaard Kallick, a senior fellow at FPI and the director of its immigration research initiative. FPI is a 25-year-old independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit research and education organization with the mission to improve the economic and social conditions of all New Yorkers.
Immigration labor contributes 20 percent of Long Island’s economic output. Immigrants are 18 percent of the region’s population.
While the national debates are dominated by discussion of immigrants from Mexico, who make up 28 percent of immigrants in the U.S. as a whole, people born in El Salvador constitute 14 percent of the Island’s immigration population.
“If you come from Guatemala or El Salvador and make it to a family [that makes the median income of $80,000], that is the American Dream,” Kallick said.
While there is an upside to the overall economy, American workers are being hurt on a micro level when competing with illegal immigrants.
“It does really impact everyone,” said Hofstra University junior Sarah Paquette, continuing, “I think it is important for everyone to truly understand what’s really going on.”
“Eventually, it does put a strain on the economy,” said Hofstra senior and student government president Damian Gallagher. “I think you could overpopulate certain schools where other children could become disadvantaged. I think in the work force when you have more bodies then, yes, it could affect the average Joe looking for a job.”
Hofstra will play host to the first presidential debate on Monday evening. It hosted a presidential debate in 2008 and 2012. The Long Island University was originally billed as an alternate in 2016 before Ohio’s Wright University withdrew from the debate, citing security concerns.
Millennials are fleeing Long Island, a long-term trend, due to high cost of living expenses and higher-level, more skilled jobs elsewhere.
“Competition…that’s life,” said Paquette, adding that she uses it as a “motivating factor.”
“There’s no way to have effective enforcement of immigration laws unless you have a point where everybody’s in compliance.” – David Dyssegaard Kallick, Fiscal Policy Institute
“There’s very little labor regulation, very little enforcement so people are able to pay lower wages is part of the problem,” Kallick said, noting other economic problems when illegal immigrants are employed such as “employers paying people without workers compensation, without paying unemployment insurance, without sort of being part of the regular system.”
The illegal nature of undocumented immigration, Kallick points out, means lower wages for young American workers. Young black men with a high school degree or less suffer the most.
“There’s no way to have effective enforcement of immigration laws unless you have a point where everybody’s in compliance,” said Kallick, who has been with FPI since the summer of 2001.
It is estimated that there are 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States, which Kallick believes is accurate within 20 percent, according to his research.
Evidently, legal immigration significantly benefits the American economy, whereas illegal immigration has pitfalls for a nation’s economy and security.
“I think there needs to be a system where you first of all say, how do you make sure everybody’s in compliance – employers and employees? How do you make sure that people who come here, do come here legally? Because, you don’t want to come here illegally across the borders or even legally, which is in fact 40 percent of undocumented immigrants come and overstay visas,” said Kallick, adding, “How do you stop that from happening? And, I think there are good ways to think about it, but again, it has to be in a context where you can think about enforcement.”