Statement of Bob Fulkerson, Director, Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada – May 1, 2010

SUBMITTED BY BOB FULKERSON – P.L.A.N.

Our broken immigration system dishonors America. The race to enact the most draconian anti-immigrant measures, lead by Arizona, undermines the liberty and freedom our veterans fought to uphold. Basta! Enough! It is time for comprehensive immigration reform now.

Totalitarian regimes rely upon their countrymen and women to spy on each other and entrust sweeping powers to the police. In Arizona, we are inching toward this repressive form of government, where the authorities are required to stop, question and detain individuals solely based on appearance. It is a new, awesome form of government strong-arming that has no place in a country that promises to extend “liberty and justice for all.”

Immigrants have been coming here for 500 years, seeking to feed their families, build communities and to make America great. The Arizona law appeals to our worst instincts as a people. It scapegoats an entire class of people and seeks to severely punish them. It wrongly assumes that immigrants have come here to steal our resources and not give anything back.

This is wrong. In Nevada, as the PLAN study two years ago proved, immigrant labor means life or death for our economy.

From 2000 to 2005, the total direct and indirect economic impact of Hispanic immigrants on Nevada’s economy grew from $20 billion to $28 billion, a 43% increase. This accounts for slightly more than 25% of the Gross State Product GSP (a measure of the state’s economic output).

From 2000 to 2005, taxes paid by the Hispanic immigrant community grew 44 percent, from $3billion to $4.2 billion.

In 2005, Hispanic immigrants alone paid $4.2 billion in federal, state and local taxes in Nevada, including $1.6 billion in state and local taxes. This is a significant contribution (half the state budget proposed for 2007–$3.4 billion).

Look at what’s happened in Colorado as a result of anti-immigrant legislation there: Hardly any agriculture workers are returning because of draconian anti-immigrant measures. They are now considering legislation to use prisoners for needed farm labor.

Are we going to use prisoners to keep the our casinos humming?

Some assert that undocumented immigrants impose a higher cost because they are in jail more and use schools and public services. I am not aware of any study that shows that undocumented immigrants end up in jail more than any other group including native borne residents. It is true that the entire country and the border states do have additional costs due to undocumented immigrants, but Nevada has no special costs.

In fact, studies in other states have shown that undocumented immigrants work in higher percentages than citizens and documented immigrants so their contribution to the long-term health of the economy is greater!

The facts are in: Nevada and the US has an interdependent relationship with immigrants. They need us, and we need them. Any state or federal legislation must be based on this fact.

Our broken immigration system is killing people and tearing families apart. We call on President Obama and the Congress to honor America, our veterans, and all those who believe the promise of liberty and justice for all by passing immigration reform now!

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