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National Report Finds States Could Improve Economy and Communities with Inclusive Immigration Policies

Phoenix, AZ – State and local policymakers can take key steps to better integrate immigrants, including immigrants who are undocumented, into the mainstream economy and foster community well-being, according to a new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP).

Giving all residents access to economic opportunity would enable them to earn higher wages, spend more at businesses, and contribute more in taxes that are used to fund schools and other investments that are critical to a strong economy, the report finds. The report also finds undocumented workers pay nearly $12 billion annually in state and local taxes and more of their income in taxes than the top 1% of income earners. Harsh anti-immigrant policies, in contrast, harm workers and their children and do nothing to help local economies prosper.

“At a time when federal immigration policies are causing widespread harm, it is both sound policy and beneficial to states to pursue supportive polices that assuage fears and provide opportunity for all of their residents — regardless of their national origin, their religion, the color of their skin, or the language they speak,” said CBPP senior policy analyst Eric Figueroa.

The report includes four immigration recommended policies: increasing access to higher education by allowing all students, regardless of immigration status, to pay lower in-state tuition rates; ensuring immigrants have access to driver’s licenses; adopting stronger labor protection laws in the workforce; and expanding health coverage to all children regardless of immigration status.

The Arizona Board of Regents, which governs the state’s three public universities, is considering a proposal this week that would allow undocumented students to pay reduced rates, rather than high out-of-state tuition costs. During the 2019 legislative session, a bipartisan measure passed the state senate that would allow Arizona high school graduates to pay a lower college tuition rate than out-of-state students admitted into Arizona’s universities or community colleges, regardless of immigration status. Currently, 21 states and the District of Columbia have adopted what are known as “tuition equity” laws, while 12 of these states and D.C. offer state financial aid to students who are undocumented.

“Giving all Arizonans, regardless of their immigration status, access to these opportunities would only help our economy,” said David Lujan, director of the Arizona Center for Economic Progress. “At a time when 60% of jobs will require some form of post-secondary education, continuing to invest in our high school graduates is smart policy. Tackling in-state tuition and access to financial aid for undocumented Arizona high school graduates will strengthen Arizona’s workforce and will attract and create a competitive market both nationally and globally.”

The CBPP report can be found online here.

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