Study says Napa Valley immigrants pay their way

A worker hand-picks cabernet sauvignon wine grapes at the Stags' Leap Winery in Napa, Calif. A new study finds immigrants in Napa County contribute $1 billion to the economy and also pay their share of taxes.

Kai Ryssdal: It's not likely immigration policy's going to be a big national issue in November. Congress and the White House agreed to disagree on that a couple of years ago. Locally, though, it's much more of a concern, depending on where you are.

We took you up to Napa Valley last fall to examine the growing gap between rich and poor in California's wine growing region. Latinos will soon be the majority there. And while locals debate the costs of immigration, a new report (PDF) offers some food for thought.

Marketplace's Jeff Tyler explains.


Jeff Tyler: Immigrants contribute about a billion dollars to Napa County’s $7 billion economy. That’s one figure from a report on the fiscal impact of immigration in the area.

Terence Mulligan with the Napa Valley Community Foundation commissioned the study.

Terence Mulligan: We wanted to bring some facts to the table and disprove some misconceptions.

Mulligan hears people say things like: ‘Immigrants work hard, but send their money out of the country’ or ‘Immigrants are a burden on social services.’ But the economic evidence suggests otherwise.

Mulligan: What we spend in Napa County on services for immigrants and their children is proportional to their share of population in public health, in public benefits, in corrections and general government.

Another complaint: Immigrants don’t pay their fair share of taxes.

That’s false, says Randy Capps, a senior policy analyst with the Migration Policy Institute. He conducted the study.

Randy Capps: They pay state and local taxes roughly in proportion to their population.

The fiscal impact of immigration is lower, the report found, because local employers often pay for health insurance, even for agricultural workers.

Capps: Having private health insurance coverage lowers the public health care costs quite a bit.

There is one area where the report found that the children of Hispanic immigrants use a disproportionate amount of services -- public education. But Capps says it’s important to invest in those students, since they represent the area’s future workforce.

I’m Jeff Tyler for Marketplace.

About the author

Jeff Tyler is a reporter for Marketplace’s Los Angeles bureau, where he reports on issues related to immigration and Latin America.

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