Immigrants making their mark on Mass. Economy, survey says

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Buoyed by contributions from international students, Massachusetts ranks fourth in the country in a new survey of states reaping the most economic benefit from immigration, according to the State House News Service.

The report by the personal finance website WalletHub gave Massachusetts the highest mark among all states for the percentage of jobs created by the presence of international students. The Bay State tied for first with Washington, D.C. for an overall ranking on the economic contributions of international students.

Immigrants have the largest economic impact in New York and the least in Mississippi, according to the rankings, which placed Massachusetts seventh for its percentage of Fortune 500 companies founded by immigrants or their children, ninth for median household income of its foreign-born population, and 14th for its percentage of jobs generated by immigrant-owned businesses.

President Donald Trump is expected to discuss immigration in his State of the Union speech Tuesday night. According to the White House, Trump plans to "explain his framework on immigration reform, including border security, DACA legalization, protecting the nuclear family, and replacing the visa lottery with a skills-based approach."

The White House on Jan. 25 released an immigration reform and border security framework, outlining what Trump hopes to see in future legislation. Among other measures, the framework calls for elimination of the visa lottery, with those visas instead reallocated to reduce backlogs for family-based and high-skilled employment immigration.

The framework says it aims to "protect the nuclear family" by limiting family sponsorships to spouses and minor-children only, providing a 10- to 12-year path to citizenship for recipients of protections under the Deferred Actions for Childhood Arrivals policy, ensuring "the prompt removal of illegal border-crossers regardless of country of origin," and creating a $25 billion trust fund for a border wall system.

"America is a cutting-edge economy, but our immigration system is stuck in the past," Trump said in Jan. 26 remarks at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. "We must replace our current system of extended-family chain migration with a merit-based system of admissions that selects new arrivals based on their ability to contribute to our economy, to support themselves financially, and to strengthen our country."

The WalletHub report quotes a handful of academics discussing immigration policy, including Boston University law professor Karen Pita Loor, who said Trump's proposed plans would "do very little to curtail illegal immigration."

"His approach has largely focused on building a wall and speeding up the deportation proceedings for undocumented immigrants who are caught," she said. "However, as we have already seen, building the wall will be expensive and we can't speed up deportation proceedings without infringing upon people's human rights. These measures amount to throwing money at the problem rather than strengthening relationships with sending countries, in the interest of finding mutually beneficial solutions."