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Transformation of a Town Underscores Immigrants’ Impact

May 06, 2013 (1 min read)

"While there is considerable debate about whether increased immigration depresses wages on the low end of the pay scale, most experts say allowing more new immigrants and offering a more secure legal footing for workers who are currently in the country illegally would bring the nation broad economic gains.  “We need more legal immigration,” said Diana Furchtgott-Roth, an economist at the conservative Manhattan Institute. “Additional human capital results in more growth.”  Lawrence F. Katz, a liberal professor of economics at Harvard who is among those who say that immigration can push down pay for workers directly competing with new immigrants, nevertheless supports the argument that a freer flow of people from other nations would foster more growth. “No doubt some individuals are harmed,” he said, “but the benefits outweigh the costs.”  Some conservative skeptics, though, see a steep price in a broad amnesty, largely because of increased spending on social services and entitlements.  The pluses and minuses of more immigration are evident in this working-class village of 29,000 about 30 miles north of Midtown Manhattan that shares a border with affluent Greenwich, Conn.  A wave of Hispanic immigrants, both legal and illegal, has transformed downtown Port Chester, which fell on hard times in the 1980s and ’90s after factories and mills closed and an older generation of Italian immigrants moved away or died off.  Today, 59 percent of the village’s population is of Hispanic origin, said Christopher Gomez, Port Chester’s director of planning and development. From 1990 to 2010, Port Chester’s population jumped by 17 percent, twice as fast as Westchester County as a whole.  The immigrant influx, he said, has become the “lifeblood” of the town. “I don’t know where we’d be without it.” - NYT, May 6, 2013, page 1.