By GINNIE GRAHAM World Staff Writer 3/26/2008
The state bankers association says the loss could be $1.8 billion.
If 50,000 immigrants leave Oklahoma, the state would lose about $1.8 billion annually in productivity and wages, according to a study released Tuesday by the Oklahoma Bankers Association. The group does not take a position on HB 1804, the state's new immigration law, said President and Chief Executive Officer Roger Beverage. The study was commissioned after the association began hearing stories about banks seeing impacts such as loan defaults and halted housing developments. "Bankers asked the question, 'Can we afford to do this? Does this make sense?' " Beverage said...House Bill 1804 makes it a crime to knowingly hire, house or transport illegal immigrants and took effect Nov. 1. Economists Russell Evans and Kyle Dean, of Economic Impact Group in Edmond, wrote and researched the study. .."We're not saying that it is a good bill or a bad bill," Evans said. "We have no comment on that. But from a purely economic standpoint, we wanted to see look at what the cost would be of removing them." The Federation for Immigration Reform has estimated Oklahoma spends about $207 million a year in public funds for illegal immigrants, mainly for education, emergency health care and incarceration. The economists assume the number to be correct, Evans said. Between 50,000 and 70,000 undocumented immigrants are estimated to be living in Oklahoma, the study states. The study gives a range of impacts based on the number of immigrants who leave. In the short term, the impact ranges from a $786 million annual loss if 25,000 immigrants leave, up to a $3 billion annual loss if 90,000 migrate elsewhere, according to the study. In the long term, Oklahoma would lose between $637 million to $1.9 billion annually, the study states. "If you don't enter the impact of losing those workers into the discussion, then I think the discussion is somewhat distorted," Evans said. "All we are trying to provide is what the lost outcome of productivity and lost income of those workers would be." More House Bill 1804 impact studies are expected, Evans said. "The academic community was a little behind with everybody else," Evans said. "The bill happened so fast and became law so fast that the discussion about the impacts of the bill didn't begin until after it had been implemented and signed." ..Beverage said Oklahoma banks remain strong in spite of the challenges of the national credit crunch, depressed housing market, subprime mortgage meltdown and the Federal Reserve predictions that some community banks will fail in the next couple of years. "In addition, Oklahoma banks have had to deal with the practical ramifications of the economic impact of 1804," Beverage said. "You cannot confine the economic impact of 1804 to one sector of society or one classification of workers. Rather, it has an impact to workers in a number of different areas."