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New immigrants arriving in Massachusetts can expect to earn a median wage of about $24,000 per year, according to a report by the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center; photo by on

Report: New immigrants adding to MA economy, workforce

A surge of new immigrants in Massachusetts is currently straining the state’s emergency shelter system and budget but a new report found they will bring direct economic benefits to the region.

In their first year after arrival, 1,000 immigrants with work permits generate an estimated $24 million in wages, and the number grows to $34 million after five years.

Phineas Baxandall, interim president of the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, said it means added local spending power and an increase in tax revenues.

“We’re seeing real economic contributions,” Baxandall pointed out. “Which are really important to keep in mind especially as we confront the kinds of costs and disruptions that we have today.”

Baxandall noted new immigrants’ economic contributions could increase because Massachusetts offers them the chance to obtain a driver’s license and allows undocumented high school graduates access to in-state college tuition.

Thousands of immigrants seeking asylum and other federal protections have arrived in Massachusetts over the past several months alone, and state officials said they are making progress in expediting work permits so people can begin to support themselves. Previous data showed new immigrants often fill immediate shortages in construction, health care, child care and agriculture. Baxandall argued it is good news for a state coping with an aging workforce and declining population.

“There would be a shrinking labor supply if not for foreign immigration,” Baxandall emphasized. “For the future, we need immigration at least as much as the immigrants need us.”

Baxandall stressed the state should invest more in English as a Second Language, including adult basic education programs, and follow the lead of at least 10 other states, which allow immigrants without Social Security numbers to benefit from the Earned Income Tax Credit. He added new immigrants offer Massachusetts an opportunity to make future economic growth happen.

by Kathryn Carley, Commonwealth News Service

Kathryn Carley began her career in community radio, and is happy to be back, covering the New England region for Public News Service. Getting her start at KFAI in Minneapolis, Carley graduated from the University of Minnesota and then worked as a reporter for Minnesota Public Radio, focusing on energy and agriculture. Moving to Washington, D.C., she filed stories for The Pacifica Network News and The Pacifica Report. Later, Carley worked as News Host for New York Public Radio, WNYC as well as Co-Anchor for Newsweek’s long running radio program, Newsweek on Air. Carley also served as News Anchor for New York Times Radio. She now lives near Boston, MA.

Languages Spoken: English

Topic Expertise: education, environment, nuclear energy

Local Expertise: Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Maine, New York City, Wisconsin, Minnesota

Demographic Expertise: public schools, families, children, nutrition

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