Researcher: SC illegal immigrants have $1.8 billion in buying power

New census figures show immigrants make up more than 4 percent of South Carolina?s population.
The figures are cited in a recent report from the Immigration Policy Center based in Washington, D.C.
The report says South Carolina had 190,000 immigrants in 2007, the latest year for which figures are available. The U.S. Census Bureau said the percentage of the foreign-born population rose to 4.3 percent in 2007 from 2.9 percent in 2000.
Elaine Lacy with the USC Consortium of Latino Immigration Studies researches immigration issues and now heads Academic Affairs at USC-Aiken.
Dr. Lacy points out that researchers believe the actual number of immigrants in the US is approximately twice what the census indicates.
She says she was surprised that the figures were so high.  She says a recent study indicates that the number of Mexican immigrants has drop off recently due to the recession.  But she says it’s also true that fewer Mexicans are now leaving the US after a period and going back home, as they have done. 
Lacy says an important consideration is that legal immigrants have a much larger voting block.  “South Carolina politicians need to pay attention to that.  Over 66,000 immigrants are now illegible to vote.  That’s a sizable number.  The implications include that these people now have a political voice.”
An official at the Selig Center for Economic Growth at the University of Georgia, the purchasing power of South Carolina’s Latino population totaled $3.3 billion in 2008. The buying power of the Asian population was $1.9 billion.
Lacy says another study shows that state policy makers would be smart not to alienate immigrants.  “I’m certainly not arguing in favor of illegal immigration.  But one study shows that if undocumeted immigrants decided to leave, the state would loose $1.8 billion in expenditures, $783 million in economic output and almost 12,000 jobs.”
Lacy says the immigrants, even illegal ones, have a notable economic presence on South Carolina. “We’re still the only state in the US which says that the children of undocumented immigrants cannot go to public colleges and universities.  That’s going to have implications.  It might be best if our policy makers re-thought immigration policy as other states have done.”
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And speaking of the issue immigrants, the Department of Homeland Security is offering a free 1.5 hour Webinar, which is an online sebinar. It will demonstration of the E-Verify system, and a question and answer session.
If you are interested, call 1-888-464-4218 or email E-Verify@dhs.gov.
The federal government says E-verify is currently the best means available for employers to electronically verify the employment eligibility of their newly hired employees. Officials say E-Verify virtually eliminates Social Security mismatch letters and helps U.S. employers maintain a legal workforce.