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From Long Island Wins: November 17, 2011

One Set of Facts, One Unavoidable Conclusion

In any debate, it’s said, each party is entitled to its own opinion. But not its own set of facts.

That’s why it’s so exciting that there’s been yet another important step in establishing a single set of facts about the contributions of immigrants to Long Island.

The Fiscal Policy Institute is out with a new study titled New Americans on Long Island, a Vital Sixth of the Economy. And while the whole thing is worth reading – it’s posted on the Long Island Wins website - we’ll skip to the good parts: the report finds that immigrants make up 16 percent of Long Island’s population and 17 percent of its economic output.

In short, immigrants are adding to Long Island’s economy.

That may surprise you, but it shouldn’t. Immigrants come to Long Island from Europe, Asia, Africa, and Latin America to work hard, support their families, and participate in the American Dream. Study after study shows just how much immigrants mean to Long Island’s economy.

If you’re looking to break stereotypes, the new study is a good place to start. It found that half of immigrants (54 percent) work in white-collar jobs, nearly a quarter of small businesses on Long Island are owned by immigrants, including nearly half (44 percent) of all individually owned restaurants.

And three quarters of immigrants on Long Island are homeowners. Think about that.

Immigrants are more likely than U.S.-born Long Islanders to be in prime working age, adding to their overall economic contribution.

And while it can be tempting to exclude the contributions of undocumented immigrants from the good news, this report reminds us that undocumented immigrants are estimated to pay $2,000 per family per year in New York State and local taxes, according to an analysis done by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy.

Again: immigrants of all types come here motivated to work. We in America and on Long Island get the entrepreneurs. And that’s something for us to celebrate and cultivate, if for no other reason than that it makes Long Island better off.

Our neighbors next door in Suffolk County just turned the page from what we hope history will reveal to be a short chapter of ugly politics regarding immigrants. Suffolk just elected a new county executive who ran a campaign free from the hateful rhetoric towards immigrants that marked the Steve Levy era. We think that’s a good sign.

And we’re now just a year from our next federal election, where Long Islanders and all Americans have the chance to give voice to a new vision of immigration policy – one that recognizes and maximizes the contributions of immigrants.

The Fiscal Policy Institute just confirmed the facts: immigrants are making Long Island more prosperous. It’s up to all of us to have a debate worthy of that fact.

Maryann Sinclair Slutsky is the campaign director of Long Island Wins, a campaign promoting policy solutions to local immigration issues. Visit their website at www.LongIslandWins.com.