2007-12-26 / Features

Immigrants Make Their Mark On New York City


Voters in a new poll say illegal immigration is not as important an issue for presidential candidates as is Iraq, the economy or health care. Only 15 percent of those surveyed in a Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg Poll said illegal immigration was the most important issue.

The poll, conducted between November 30 and December 3, also found one-third of those surveyed (1,245 registered voters) favor denying illegal immigrants social services, such as public schooling, emergency hospital and health care.

But 60 percent said they favor allowing those illegal immigrants not convicted of crimes to become citizens if they pay fines, learn English and meet other requirements. As recent job numbers continued to rise in New York City, two studies have determined immigrants are doing well in New York.

A little more than four-million immigrants live in New York state, three million in New York City, according to a study by the Fiscal Policy Institute. Across the state, immigrants made up 21 percent of the population and contributed 22.4 percent to the economy for a total of $229 billion in 2005.

Moreover, immigrants in New York are better educated, more likely to have health insurance and less likely to be here illegally, compared to immigrants in the rest of the country, according to another study conducted by the Center for Immigration Studies.

The total foreign-born population in New York state increased by 585,000 from 1995 to 2000, but only by 262,000 after 2000. New York accounts for more than one in 10 immigrants in the United States, second only to California, the Center for Immigration Studies claimed.

It is estimated that about 16 percent of immigrants are in New York state illegally, approximately 535,000 in New York City according to the Fiscal Policy Institute. Almost half the households headed by an illegal immigrant are receiving welfare, food assistance and health benefits for their children, according to the Center for Immigration Studies.

The Federation for American Immigration Reform has said the total cost for immigration, both legal and illegal, was an estimated $15-$20 billion per year, while benefits were placed at $10 billion annually.

More than one in three residents in New York City are immigrants, said the Fiscal Policy Institute, about 37 percent of the population. In addition, foreign-born workers earned 37 percent of all wages and salaries paid in the city. The Fisk study said immigrants become part of communities in New York, learn to speak English and buy homes.

The Fiscal Policy study also said that while immigrants made up a large majority of the city's taxi drivers, housekeepers, and home health aides, they comprise a quarter of CEOs in the city.

All of the jobs lost since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attack at the World Trade Center have now been replaced, according to the U.S. Labor Department. The number of jobs in New York City, adjusted for seasonal hiring, rose to 3.742 million in October, from 3.738 million in September, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

That was the highest level of employment in New York City since January 2001, when there were 3.748 million jobs. Job growth in New York City has been greater than anywhere else in the country, according to the U.S. Labor Department.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services received 2.5 million applications for citizenship and residence visas, including petitions for naturalization, during July and August 2007. That was more than double received for the same period of time in 2006.

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