By GLORIA NZEKA
Capital News Service
LANSING – Amidst contentious congressional debate about immigration policy, including the future of the Dreamers program, a new report sheds light on one important aspect of the controversy surrounding immigration – its impact on the U.S. economy.
There is no question that changing the immigration system is a priority of the administration.
President Donald Trump’s State of the Union Address reaffirmed his intentions to tighten the borders, reduce the number of refugees coming into the country and change the system that determines who can legally immigrate.
In its new report, WalletHub, a Washington-based finance website, analyzed all 50 states for immigrants’ overall economic impact, workforce, socio-economic contributions, brain gain and innovation.
Michigan ranked 14th overall in the national ranking, while New York took first place.
The report addressed the question of how more than 40 million immigrants living in the U.S. impact the economy.
Michigan has a growing immigrant community, with nearly 7 percent of the state’s residents having been born outside of the United States, according to the American Immigration Council, with the largest number living in the eastern and southern areas of the state.
The council is a pro-immigration advocacy group based in Washington, D.C.
The state ranked high in the WalletHub report in brain gain and innovation — 6th in the nation — an assessment that supports an American Immigration Council conclusion that immigrants “make up a vital, educated share of Michigan’s labor force.”
“Nearly 40 percent of immigrants in the state possess a college or higher degree, and more than four in five report speaking English well,” the council says on its website.
In addition to contributing to innovation, immigrants in the state have been an important part of promoting agriculture, said Susan Reed, the managing attorney of the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center.
The center which operates as an advocacy program and provides legal resources, has offices in Ann Arbor and Kalamazoo.
“Our clients contribute to the economy in various ways,” she said. “In urban communities, they spur entrepreneurial energy. Migrants farmers contribute to agriculture. They work on West Michigan farms mostly, where they help produce fruits and vegetable.”
New York-based New American Economy said immigrants make up 35 percent of workers in agriculture and 11.6 percent in manufacturing in West Michigan’s Mason, Oceana, Ottawa, Lake, Muskegon,and Newaygo counties and part of Kent County. The organization represents mayors and business leaders who “support immigration reforms that will help create jobs for Americans today.”
In that area of West Michigan, the group said 842 immigrants are entrepreneurs who contribute to the economy as consumers and taxpayers, paying a total of $72.2 million in state and local taxes in 2014.
Karen Phillippi, the deputy director of the Michigan Office of New Americans, said her agency “strongly believes in the positive impact that immigrants and refugees have and will continue to have, on the state.”
The office established by Gov. Rick Snyder “strives to make Michigan a more welcoming state for new Americans from all of over the world who are making Michigan their home, and appreciates the significant economic and cultural contributions they make to our state,” Phillippi said.
The Dreamer program — Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals –under review in Washington has 12,418 eligible participants in Michigan and 92.5 percent of them are employed, according to the New American Economy.
The Center for American Progress, a national liberal-leaning policy institute estimates that
removing them would have a $389.4 million negative impact on Michigan annually.
By GLORIA NZEKA