AUSTIN – New American Economy (NAE) has released a Map the Impact report, which highlights the economic, voting and other impacts immigrants have on their respective states, cities, congressional districts and industries and uses that data as a basis for its call for immigration reform efforts across the country.
“Study after study proves that immigrants strengthen our economy, as workers and consumers,” U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX-28) told The Record. “That’s why business leaders are among the strongest voices calling for immigration reform. I support fixing our deeply flawed immigration system so it reflects our values and our economic reality.”
"Our country loses substantial talent with our current immigration laws and policies. We must improve our immigration system so that more employers can hire and retain a productive workforce. This will make our whole economy stronger," said Marylyn Harris, executive director of the Women Veterans Business Center in Houston, in a statement.
Map the Impact includes information on immigrant tax contributions, spending power, entrepreneurship, workforce, homeownership, demographics and voting power.
“This data puts the economic power of America’s immigrants in stark relief,” John Feinblatt, chairman of New American Economy, said in an NAE release. “Across the map, and in every industry, immigrants strengthen the economies of big cities and small towns alike.”
According to the information specific to Southeast Texas, professions with the highest share of foreign-born employees in District 27 include construction, “general services,” arts, entertainment and recreation, and accommodation and food services, manufacturing and professional, scientific, and management, and administrative and waste management services.
The top immigrant professions in District 28 were general services, construction, transportation and warehousing, utilities, wholesale trade and professional, scientific and management, as well as administrative and waste management services.
NAE reported a total of 7.8 percent, or 55,543, of residents of Texas District 27 and 159,434 of District 28 residents in 2014 were immigrants. Those foreign-born workers in District 27 paid $353.3 million in taxes in that year and brought $1.1 billion in spending power to the region. Meanwhile, District 28 immigrants paid $713.9 million in taxes and had $2.3 billion in spending power.
NAE data showed that there were 4,046 immigrant entrepreneurs in District 27 and 11,098 in District 28 in 2014.
“I don’t find it hard to believe that immigrants, like my parents, collectively pay hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes in Texas each year or start businesses and contribute to the economy,” Cuellar said.
Additionally, NAE said “immigrants are far more likely to be of working age” in the state than those who were born in the United States. Specifically, NAE reported that 73.8 of the population share in the state between the ages of 25 and 64 in District 27 and 70.9 percent in District 28 are foreign-born.
"The Texas economy is closely interwoven with the Mexican economy--and it has benefitted us both. Mexico is the number one destination for Texas exports. Immigration reform should be a priority in Washington, but building a wall is the wrong way to go. The United States cannot isolate itself without hurting the economy,” Jose Carlos Gonzalez, principal at Gonzalez & Associates in Houston, said in a statement.
Finally, NAE’s data revealed that 10,087 of the 19,353 of immigrants in District 27 who are eligible to vote are registered to do so. A total of 23,925 of 45,903 eligible foreign-born voters in District 28 are registered. Since the margin of victory in some recent presidential elections has been narrow, NAE said these immigrants could have a significant voice in the state and country’s future.
“When I travel my district, I meet people working hard to provide for their families and give back to their communities,” Cuellar said. “These are taxpayers, veterans, laborers, entrepreneurs, leaders. You can’t tell from their character, their votes, or their bank accounts who was born here in south Texas, and who just arrived to pursue the American dream.”
Texas U.S. Reps. Sam Johnson, Brian Babin, Mike Conaway, Ted Poe, Joaquin Castro, Bill Flores, Sheila Jackson Lee, Pete Sessions, Blake Farenthold and Jeb Hensarling and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz did not respond to requests for comment on the report.