South Florida

They may not be documented. But they do pay taxes.

Bud Conlin and Alejo Vada attended a Miami-Dade County Commission meeting earlier this month to protest a vote to end the county’s ‘sanctuary’ status for undocumented immigrants.
Bud Conlin and Alejo Vada attended a Miami-Dade County Commission meeting earlier this month to protest a vote to end the county’s ‘sanctuary’ status for undocumented immigrants. Miami Herald Staff

If there are any questions about what immigrants contribute to Florida, a Florida International University economist has one answer: at least $753 million in cold hard cash.

In response to President Donald Trump’s crackdown on undocumented immigrants and Miami-Dade County commissioners’ majority vote last week to comply with the strict new marching orders, Alí Bustamante calculated how much immigrants pay in taxes. Nationwide, the total comes to about $11.6 billion. The Southeast Florida metropolitan slice of that pie totals $437 million.

The judiciary is the new front line: A group of lawyers scramble to get their clients into the country, while preparing a legal challenge to Trump’s immigration ban.

“If you want to do the math in terms of the fiscal impact of mass deportation, it can’t be one-sided,” said Bustamante, an economist in FIU’s School of International and Public Affairs. “It can’t just take into consideration the stick that’s being wielded by the federal government.”

Despite tearful pleas last week that drew a national audience, county commissioners voted 9-3 to essentially end the county’s status as a “sanctuary” and begin complying with federal orders, which the county had ignored after the Obama administration stopped paying for extra jail time. As of February, Bustamante reported, 226 local municipalities, four states and Washington, D.C., retained their sanctuary status. In Florida, six counties continue to oppose the new detention orders, he said: Broward, Hernando, Hillsborough, Palm Beach, Pasco and Pinellas.

According to Bustamante’s report, between 1990 and 2010, immigrants, both legal and undocumented, had a net benefit to the U.S. worth $50 billion. Florida metropolitan areas receive as much as $107 million in the Orlando area to $73 million in Tampa and St. Petersburg. Bustamante pulled his data from a collection of reports that include research by the Pew Research Center, the National Academies of Sciences and the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy.

“These aren’t small figures,” he said, “ so it’s certainly something that should be considered thoughtfully.”

Nora Sandigo, a well-known activist who helps children whose parents have been deported, pleads for calm during the immigration debate at Miami-Dade County Hall on Friday, Feb. 17, 2017.

Follow Jenny Staletovich on Twitter @jenstaletovich

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