The study says low-wage Hispanic workers depressed wages in North Carolina by nearly $2 billion in 2004, but also says their presence also created nearly 90,000 jobs for others.
Billed as the first investigation of Latino economic impact in a state with one of the country's fastest-growing populations, the study --by members of the Frank Hawkins Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise -- says Hispanic residents filled about a third of the new jobs created in North Carolina in the last decade and make up about 30 percent of the jobs in the construction industry.
"Hispanics contribute a lot more to North Carolina's economy than many people realize," said Dr. John Kasarda, of the Kenan Institute.
He and Dr. James Johnson found that Hispanics pay about $756 million a year in state taxes, but that through taxpayer-funded schools, hospital care and prisons, the state spends about $817 million to support them -- resulting in a $61 million tax drain.
But researchers believe that drain is outweighed by spending power. Even after saving or sending home 20 percent of their income, the research estimates Hispanics pour more than $9 billion a year into the economy.
William Gheen, president of Americans for Legal Immigration, believes the report vastly underestimates the stress of illegal immigration on taxpayers. He calls it a propaganda piece for construction companies that exploit cheap labor and bankers that loan Hispanics money.
"They're trying to hide the damage from the illegal immigrant population by wrapping it up in all the entire Hispanic population which is inaccurate and offensive," Gheen said. "They have an economic interest in illegal immigrants staying."
The researchers, however, say the numbers speak for themselves.
The report also shows that since 1995, 76 percent of Hispanics who migrated to North Carolina came to the state illegally. It also estimates that there are about 601,000 Hispanics living in the state, with about 45 percent lacking legal status in the United States.
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