Immigration reform is one of the hottest topics in Washington right now, and a new study looks at the impact immigrants have on Missouri and Kansas.
Manuel David is from Honduras, but he came to Tipton, MO, when he was only 17 years old after earning a scholarship to become a foreign exchange student.
"I was always fascinated with engineering and electronics," he said. "To come to the United States to be a part of the country that leads, in many ways, in this field is exciting."
Today David's the president of Global Control Systems in Lenexa, KS, where he and his staff of engineers write software and design hardware for factories to build products. As he proudly hangs a picture of Lady Liberty in his office, he said the current anti-immigration tone in the U.S. is disheartening.
"It's hard to hear because a lot of positives get lost, a lot of good things that happen from folks that come to the country are lost in the arguments," he said.
Which is why Tuesday leaders of the Kansas City Hispanic Development Fund announced the results of a two-year study by the University of Missouri-Kansas City's Center for Economic Information. The study looked at the economic impact immigrants are having in both Kansas and Missouri.
"There were not enough facts available for state legislators, so we felt we needed to add better information to the discourse of immigration," said Ramon Murguia, the chair of the KC Hispanic Development Fund. "We wanted it to be used so that it would inform the discussion in the state capitols."
The study said immigrants are more likely to hold jobs than non-immigrants and that immigrants account for nearly 8.8 percent of the Kansas employment as well as 4.5 percent in Missouri.
The lead professor of the study said anti-immigration laws could impact major industries that depend on immigrant labor. For example, meat plants in southwestern Kansas would cease to exist without the 70 percent immigrant butchers.
"There's information there and you can't make good policy without good information. If you make a policy based on stereotypes, you will make a bad policy and I hope this is one of the pieces that will contribute to a good immigration policy for the United States. We don't have one now," said UMKC associate professor of economics Dr. Peter Eaton, who also authored the study.
The study found that even if every unemployed native Kansan were to take a job currently held by an immigrant, there would still be 50,000 jobs left unfilled. It also found that immigrants pay more state and local taxes than the government services they receive.
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