A new report on immigration policy, a politically fraught issue of the day, calls for publicly funded universal legal representation for low-income immigrants held in detention in New Jersey.

In this way, the Garden State would join the state of New York and other U.S. municipalities, such as Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago and Denver, paving a path forward that helps immigrants and strengthens economic and fiscal stability, according to Erika J. Nava, a policy analyst with New Jersey Policy Perspective.

The economic dimension of immigration detention and legal representation gets short shrift generally, according to Nava. Meanwhile, the rising tide of "Families Belong Together" to support asylum-seekers experiencing family separation is gathering steam across the U.S.

"Deportations not only hurt the individuals," Nava told MultiBriefs, "but also their families and local economies (purchasing power decreases, tax revenue decreases and the likelihood kids would end up in foster care increases, etc.) and without legal representation, families are less likely to remain together."

On a yearly basis, the price of detentions and deportations in the Garden State are about $732,000 in child health insurance and $203,000 in foster care for kids of detained or deported parents. This figure of approximately $1 million excludes long-term costs, e.g., youth trauma, development, and health issues from having one or more of their parents deported.

The report’s key findings contribute more details, using a cost-benefit analysis, on immigration policy.

In the Garden State, defendants with legal representation who are facing civil immigration violations are three times as likely to prevail in their cases. Data on this comes from Seton Hall Law School research of immigrant families who lack representation as they face deportation.

Further, immigration policy is a part — not apart from — businesses in the Garden State. Why?

Immigrants without documents are part of the state’s labor force. As a result, there are costs when employers have to recruit, hire and train replacement workers.

"New Jersey employers pay $5.9 million in turnover-related costs annually as they are forced to replace detained or deported employees," according to Nava’s report. That is real money for business owners operating on a razor-thin margin.

Immigrants are employees and owners of enterprises. "The Garden State has 34,232 main street businesses," according to Nava, "and immigrants own 48.1 percent of them. This is the highest percentage share of immigrant-owned main street businesses aside from California."

Immigrants own businesses and employ about 270,500 workers in New Jersey, according to Nava.

"Immigrants or their children have founded 39 percent of the 19 Fortune 500 companies based in New Jersey," according to her. "These companies generate more than $133 billion in annual revenue and employ almost 600,000 people globally."

From a macroeconomic perspective, consumer buying power and state taxing revenues benefit from immigrant labor. Nava reports that the New Jersey economy loses $18 million in wage-income and $1.6 of total tax revenue when detained immigrants are unable to work.

What surprised Nava the most in producing her report?

"The notion that only undocumented folks are detained and deported could not be further from the truth," Nava told MultiBriefs.com. "Legal non-citizens in the United States typically experienced the longest detention times."

A recently passed 2018-2019 New Jersey state budget of $37 billion that Gov. Phil Murphy signed includes $2.1 million to pay for lawyers’ representation of immigrants.

The $2.1 million will help to ameliorate the issue of legal counsel for immigrants who when they are "detained and do not have access to legal representation … are deported 86 percent of the time," according to Nava.