Report: Immigrants Vital to Long Island Economy

Long Island immigrants make up about 16 percent of the overall population but represent 20 percent of the working-age population, the report stated. Immigrants who work hold down a wide variety of jobs, including 22 percent of professional jobs, such as doctors and engineers, and 16 percent of executive and managerial positions.

Asian and Middle Eastern immigrants are well-represented in white collar professions on Long Island, with 92 percent of the Island’s Iranian immigrants working white collar jobs, followed by 84 percent of the local immigration population from India, 83 percent from Pakistan and 80 percent from China.

While Asians make up a sizable proportion of the overall foreign-born population of Long Island, they are outnumbered by Hispanic immigrants, who account for nearly a third of the area’s immigrants. Hispanic immigrants are less likely to work white collar jobs, but many – especially those from El Salvador, Colombia and the Dominican Republic – are among the 22 percent of Long Island immigrants who own small businesses.

It is hard to track undocumented immigrants, but the report stated that on Long Island, about a third are employed in service jobs, a fifth are in construction and a fifth are in production/manufacturing jobs. Despite their citizenship status, illegal immigrants pay about $2,000 per family in state and local taxes annually.

While immigration rights advocates have praised the report, others have criticized it. Seth Forman of the Long Island Regional Planning Council told the Wall Street Journal the report did not consider how immigrants drain resources.

Other states have been grappling with the issue of how immigrants, especially illegal immigrants who do not have a work permit, are integrated into the economy. Following the passage of a tough new immigration law, Alabama farmers have said their workforce has been severely depleted, while a Center for American Progress study showed a similar labor shortage in Georgia could lead to an overall loss of $300 million to $1 billion for the 2011 growing season.