Parishioners raise their hands in prayer during a Spanish-language Mass...

Parishioners raise their hands in prayer during a Spanish-language Mass at the Church of St. Rosalie in Hampton Bays on Aug. 2, 2015. The East End hamlet has become a magnet for Latino immigrants, with about 24 percent of its 12,680 residents telling the U.S. Census Bureau's 2013 American Community Survey that they speak Spanish at home. Credit: Veronique Louis

Long Island has been the state’s top region for a net gain in international migration outside of New York City, part of a larger trend of people seeking opportunity and driving growth, according to a report issued Wednesday by state Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli’s office.

Nassau and Suffolk counties together added about 48,580 people from 2010 to 2015 through international migration, including immigrants who came to the United States legally or illegally and U.S. citizens from Puerto Rico, the analysis found.

Without those newcomers, the Island would have seen a decrease in its population that could have hurt its economy, Deputy Comptroller Robert Ward said.

“Fewer residents mean fewer taxpayers to support public schools, local governments and public services,” Ward said. “Fewer workers for the economy means less economic activity, with a wide variety of ramifications.”

New York City’s net international migration was an estimated 452,000 more people during that time span, the comptroller’s office said.

The portrait of the state’s immigrant population, a compendium of data from the U.S. Census Bureau and other federal agencies, stresses the positive effects of the influx, with DiNapoli saying that people from other countries who settle here contribute “in a wide range of occupations” and “stimulate economic activity in communities within every region.”

The report did not include an analysis of the cost of immigration, a bone of contention for those who want less of it.

Steven Camarota, research director of the Center for Immigration Studies, a group in Washington, D.C., that favors enforcement and other restrictive measures, said recent immigrants represent a fiscal drain.

He cited other figures showing that, compared with those born in the United States, immigrants in New York report lower income and have lower levels of education, and that more of them and their children live in poverty — meaning more qualify for social service programs.

The comptroller’s analysis “doesn’t really address any of the areas of concern,” Camarota said. “It’s unfortunate, but that report sort of gives us that rosy picture that is not so much inaccurate but it’s incomplete.”

An official with the comptroller’s office said it did not attempt an exhaustive economic analysis.

Highlights of the report include:

  • The number of immigrants admitted annually as legal permanent residents has decreased nationally and in the state since a 2006 peak, leveling off at about 144,000 per year in New York and just over 1 million per year nationally.
  • Eighteen percent of Long Island’s population is foreign-born, a larger concentration than the nation’s 13 percent but lower than New York City’s 37 percent. Immigrants make up 22 percent of state residents.
  • Almost one-third of American-born children in New York have at least one parent who is an immigrant. That figure hovers below 30 percent for Long Island.

“What this shows is that Long Island is a gateway for immigrants,” surpassing many large cities, said Maryann Slutsky, executive director of Long Island Wins, an immigrant-advocacy group in Syosset. “Long Island offers opportunity, maybe more so than other areas of the country, and we believe that immigrants play a vital role in the strength and prosperity of our community.”

Peter D. Salins, a political science professor at Stony Brook University and author on public policy issues, said immigration has been a plus in revitalizing cities by turning “derelict neighborhoods into vibrant neighborhoods.”

Suburbs such as Long Island have yet to adapt, he said, especially in less developed parts of the region lacking housing and other services for newcomers.

“It’s a mixed bag on Long Island,” Salins said. “You don’t have the suburban infrastructure everywhere that you have in more developed parts of Nassau County, and that causes bad feelings among neighbors” who are not ready to see change.

Still, Long Island is at the forefront as migration across the country shifts from city blocks to cul-de-sacs, said William H. Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution, a public policy organization in Washington, D.C.

“The suburbs are going to be relying more on immigrants” as other residents move out, Frey said.

“Some other areas would love to have this immigrant growth to make sure they have the demand for services and economic vitality that comes with a new population,” he said.

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