Report: Latinos, Asians boost Neb. economy

AP News
Posted: Dec 14, 2009 6:02 PM

Asians and Latinos in Nebraska had a buying power of nearly $3.8 billion in 2008 and data continue to show immigrants are among those making significant contributions to the state's economy, according to a report issued Monday by a national immigration policy group.

Nebraska's foreign-born population, which contributes as workers, employers and taxpayers, will therefore play an integral role in helping the state recover from tough economic times, says the report by the Washington-based Immigration Policy Center.

A Nebraska Department of Economic Development spokeswoman said she would review the report, but couldn't immediately comment Monday.

The report that uses data from the U.S. Census Bureau and other research groups, including the Selig Center for Economic Growth at the University of Georgia, is the latest in the policy center's state-by-state look at the economic and political power of immigrants and their children.

Findings can be considered by states as officials examine related legislation, said center spokeswoman Wendy Sefsaf.

The report doesn't differentiate between legal and illegal immigrants because of a lack of available data.

"That's what's so problematic about the undocumented population is that they're clandestine and they're very, very hard to track," Sefsaf said.

Latinos made up 7.5 percent of the state's population in 2007. Asians made up 1.4 percent.

Asians and Latinos in California wield the most purchasing power among all states _ $412 billion, according to the Selig Center's analysis.

In 2007, Nebraska was home to more than 98,500 immigrants, or 5.6 percent of the state's population. More than 36,000 were naturalized citizens, meaning they were eligible to vote, according to the report.

Foreign-born workers accounted for 6.5 percent of the state's work force.

The report referenced research unveiled last year from the University of Nebraska at Omaha's Office of Latino/Latin American Studies. It found that in 2006, immigrant spending amounted to $1.6 billion and created about 12,000 jobs statewide.

Attention recently has been paid in Nebraska to public costs incurred because of illegal immigrants. Earlier this year, Gov. Dave Heineman signed into law a measure aimed at preventing illegal immigrants from collecting public benefits like food stamps, unemployment and welfare.

Some state senators had questioned whether the bill was needed when a federal law already prohibits illegal immigrants from receiving most state benefits.

Although lawmakers were unable to provide comprehensive data detailing costs incurred by the state, Labor Department officials cited a savings of more than $322,000 in 2008 gained through verifying the legal status of people receiving unemployment insurance benefits.

The policy group's report doesn't examine costs, although Sefsaf acknowledged there are some.

"There's a lot of people out there documenting the fiscal costs of every service (immigrants) potentially use, but they never counterbalance that with the economic benefits," she said.


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