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Report stirs debate over economic impact of illegal aliens in US

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A new report on immigration has refueled arguments in the United States over the effects of illegal aliens on the American economy. The Rand Corporation, in a study sponsored and paid for by 90 large businesses in California, concluded that widespread concerns about Mexican immigration are ``generally unfounded.'' The study concluded further that ``overall, Mexican immigration has probably been an economic asset to the state.''

The report drew immediate criticism from others, such as the Federation for Immigration Reform. Roger Conner, director of FAIR, noted that one of the reasons the immigrants were an asset, according to the Rand report, was that they ``kept wages competitive.''

``Competitive,'' said Mr. Conner, is just another word for ``low.''

The report also noted that while the effects of immigration might be generally positive, some ``low-skilled native-born Latinos'' might suffer significant job displacement because of Mexican immigration.

In an interview, Kevin McCarthy, a demographer and co-author with Robert Valdez of the report, indicated that Rand limited its study to California, and some conclusions might not be valid in other regions of the country.

California, however, has the nation's greatest number of immigrants, both legal and illegal, so it is considered to be at the forefront of the issue.

Mr. McCarthy said that the report's upbeat assessment of immigration's effects on the economy was limited in scope -- focusing primarily on short-term impacts.

``We do not have [an immigration] crisis right now,'' he said. But he conceded that if flows of legal and illegal aliens continued to grow, ``we could find some very serious negative effects on native Latinos.''

The greatest impact would be felt in the job categories where workers with less education and fewer skills are employed, such as farm laborers, unskilled manufacturing workers, and common laborers.

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