Undocumented Students benefit New Mexico and need a pathway to citizenship

Julio Salgado

New Mexico has the highest rate of children living in poverty in the nation, the highest rate of food insecurity for children, and has been deemed the worst state to raise a child. These statistics are based upon documented children whom the government can track. Unfortunately, there are many undocumented children in this state who are not counted in the analysis. These undocumented children attend New Mexico schools and graduate from accredited state high schools.

The state of New Mexico allows these undocumented children to attend state funded universities and colleges. The children are also allowed to use a state funded scholarship known as the Lottery Scholarship as long as they meet certain qualifications. This unique relationship is in danger of falling apart if the state funded Legislative Lottery Scholarship Fund ceases to provide enough money to pay tuition. Undocumented children are not allowed to apply for federal aid and rely on the Lottery scholarship to get a higher education.

In reality, the Legislative Lottery Scholarship Fund is doomed and these children need another alternative. The answer to the problem is to include a path to citizenship for children in the new Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill. If these children can become U.S. citizens, they will be eligible for federal financial aid.

According to a Pew Hispanic Center Report, in 2010 there was an estimated 85,000 undocumented immigrants living in the state of New Mexico.(Pew Research Center) That means that there are roughly 20,000 undocumented children living in New Mexico. Fiscal Impact Report for 2005 New Mexico Senate Bill 582 estimates that 10% of the Hispanic children graduating from New Mexico high schools are undocumented. (Fiscal Impact Report, SB 582)The Report estimated that there were 812 undocumented high school graduates in the state of New Mexico during the 2003-2004 school years. The Report states that only 69% of New Mexico high school graduates attend universities, therefore 560 undocumented graduates would attend a university.(Fiscal Impact Report, SB 582)

It is estimated that New Mexico spends $717 million annually on undocumented immigrants. Every taxpayer pays an average of $1000 annually to cover the expenditure.(Federation for American Immigration Reform )The study breaks down the amounts to:

K-12 for children of undocumented immigrants……………………………..$438 million

English as a Second Language………………………………………………… $54 million

Unreimbursed health care/ social assistance programs………………………..$108 million

Justice/ Law Enforcement costs………………………………………………. $ 76 million

Public Services…………………………………………………………………$ 42 million

By allowing the high school graduates to attend a university and become U.S. citizens, the state will increase tax revenue and decrease the annual burden on individual tax payers. If only 40% of these students graduate every year, there will be 200 new taxpayers added to the economy each year and 200 less undocumented immigrants for the taxpayers to cover. The cumulative result of allowing these individuals to be productive members of New Mexico should be the motivating factor for passage of a path to citizenship.

In May 2013, the Immigration Policy center published a report in which they stated:

“ Moreover, Latinos and Asians (both foreign-born and native-born) wield $25.1 billion in consumer purchasing power, and the businesses they own had sales and receipts of $7.6 billion and employed more than 60,000 people at last count. At a time when the economy is still recovering, New Mexico can ill-afford to alienate such a critical component of its labor force, tax base, and business community.”

(Immigration Policy Center, NEW AMERICANS IN NEW MEXICO)

The same study pointed out some startling economic facts:

–          Unauthorized immigrants in New Mexico paid $101.5 million in state and local taxes in 2010, according to data from the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy,which includes:

• $8.7 million in state income taxes.

• $8.7 million in property taxes.

• $84.2 million in sales taxes.

–          Unauthorized immigrants comprised roughly 5.6% of the state’s workforce (or 50,000 workers) in 2010, according to a report by the Pew Hispanic Center.23

–          If all unauthorized immigrants were removed from New Mexico, the state would lose $1.8 billion in economic activity, $809.1 million in gross state product, and approximately 12,239 jobs, even accounting for adequate market adjustment time, according to a report by the Perryman Group.

(Immigration Policy Center, NEW AMERICANS IN NEW MEXICO)

With that type of economic strength, the businesses and government of New Mexico must listen to the demands of the people. Many of the individuals who make up this statistic either know or are related to an undocumented child. These children live in their communities and go to school with their children. By supporting Comprehensive Immigration Reform that includes a pathway to citizenship for children who attend college, business’s can show their commitment to the community.

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