Immigrants do not burden our economy, but in many ways enhance it, according to an April 8 report on demographics and financial statistics of foreign-born households by the Seattle based nonprofit OneAmerica.
Pramila Jayapal, executive director and founder of OneAmerica, says she's worried that Washington's immigrant population will be unfairly blamed during this economic crisis, and that support for the public services they utilize will be eroded.
"The reality is that immigrants are contributing to our economy and are a critical part of any stimulus or growth," says Jayapal. She hopes this report will convince state lawmakers to continue, and hopefully increase, investment in immigrant-focused public services like English classes, naturalization assistance, entrepreneurial support, and advocacy for federal immigration reform.
"It takes a relatively small amount of money invested in these areas [to] pay big dividends." says Jayapal.
OneAmerica hopes to provide the public with clear and accurate information before anti-immigrant sentiment rises. For example: immigrants do pay taxes. In fact, according to the report, they contribute a disproportionately high percentage of state tax revenue. Foreign-born residents make up 12 percent of Washington state's households, while they pay 13.2 percent of total tax revenue. The report also shows that, with the exception of food stamps, immigrants utilize public assistance at lower rates than natives.
Undocumented workers may also be providing an economic boost. According to the Social Security Administration, undocumented workers nationally are projected to contribute $611 billion in unclaimed wages into the Social Security system over the next 75 years. Deporting those workers, OneAmerica's report says, would cause a $14-$46 billion loss in consumer spending in Washington state.
OneAmerica's core message condenses into relatively simple aphorisms: immigrants are valuable members of our society, social spending on services to aid immigrants is a good investment in our economy, and where people are born should not distract from making good public policy.