August 3, 2016

Campaign Spotlights how Immigrants Contribute to State Economies



Today marks the beginning of the Reason for Reform campaign, part of the Partnership for a New American Economy’s (NAE) advocacy efforts in favor of comprehensive immigration reform. The campaign is bringing together a coalition of different people and groups—from community leaders to businesses—to work together in every state across the country to promote much-needed reform.

Evidenced in state-by-state reports, the campaign demonstrates how important immigrants are to the economy of every state. Each report emphasizes the many different, and often overlooked, ways that immigrants are vital in their contributions. NAE released 51 reports—one for each state and the District of Columbia—detailing the size and character of those contributions.

The reports shed light on the power of the entrepreneurial energy immigrants bring to each state. The immigrant debate often overlooks that immigrants are big job creators. In fact, immigrants are more likely to start new businesses than natives.

In Washington, D.C. alone, the report finds that while 14% of the population is born abroad, 20% of D.C.’s entrepreneurs are immigrants. Job growth in D.C. is therefore driven disproportionately by its immigrant population.

Businesses owned by immigrants, the report finds, generate over $120 million in income annually. Comprehensive immigration reform should include making it easier for people to move here to start businesses or for people stay and create businesses in order to super-charge economic activity.

The report also underscores the other ways that immigrants can and do contribute to the economy. In D.C. alone, immigrants spend and invest some $2.9 billion a year in the economy. Their skills are also complementary for natives, disproportionately employed in STEM industries in Washington, D.C., where the number of available advertised jobs grows faster than the number of qualified applicants. They help fill that need, and in so doing, raise the wages of natives and indirectly create new jobs for natives as well.

Comprehensive reform could multiply these contributions by better integrating undocumented immigrants into the formal economy and by increasing the number of immigrants who can help contribute to the economy. Luckily for Washington, D.C., it is a hub for immigrants.

In 2014 alone, immigrants in Washington, D.C. contributed $337 million in local taxes to help build infrastructure and provide public services. They also contributed another $713 million to federal taxes, $496 million of which helped fund Medicare and Social Security for an aging native-born population. Comprehensive immigration reform can help ease the financial burden of entitlements by widening the pool of workers to draw on.

Each of these reports gives a telling snapshot of how much our economy depends on the contributions of immigrants. It also tells a more sobering story of wasted potential absent comprehensive reform in 2017.

This is a unique chance to usher in the biggest immigration reform effort since 1965; Let’s make it happen.

Check out the #ReasonforReform hashtag on Twitter for immigration stories from around the country.