As the fate of immigration reform remains unresolved in Congress, plays out on the nation’s borders, and is debated in states around the country - including Connecticut - the potential economic benefits remain an element in the debate. Connecticut-centric data seeks to provide local context as a new national immigration policy is considered and stalled and considered again in Washington, D.C. Some highlights, as released by the White House, point out that immigration reform will “strengthen Connecticut’s economy and creates jobs.” Some of the data points that have been part of the past year's debate:
• Immigrants already make important contributions to Connecticut’s economy. For example, Connecticut’s labor force is 16.7% foreign-born.
• 18.5% of Connecticut business owners are immigrants. These businessmen and women generate $2.05 billion in income for Connecticut each year.
• In Connecticut, 38.2% of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) graduates at the state’s most research-intensive schools are foreign-born. Also, 68.2% of the state’s engineering PhDs are foreign-born.
• According to Regional Economic Models, Inc., a set of reforms that provides a pathway to earned citizenship and expands a high-skilled and other temporary worker programs would together boost Connecticut’s economic output by $568 million and create approximately 6,904 new jobs in 2014. By 2045, the boost to Connecticut’s economic output would be around $3 billion, in 2012 dollars.
The White House has also indicated that “common sense immigration reform increases workers’ income, resulting in new state and local tax revenue, contribute to the recovery of Connecticut’s housing market and strengthen Connecticut’s technology, agriculture, and tourism industries:
• Providing a pathway to earned citizenship and expanding high- and low-skilled visa programs will increase total personal income for Connecticut families by $1.6 billion in 2020, according to Regional Economic Models, Inc.
• Immigration reform would have increased the state and local taxes paid by immigrants in Connecticut by approximately $29 million in 2010, according to one study.
• Immigrants significantly increased home values in Connecticut between 2000 and 2010 - in New Haven County, the increase was $2,680 for the median home.
• There are 4,916 farms in Connecticut that sell approximately $552 million in agricultural products. Noncitizen farm workers accounted for 24% of all farm workers in Connecticut between 2007 and 2011. According to one study, in 2020 an expanded temporary worker program would mean 264 new jobs for U.S. citizens and immigrants (including jobs not only in agriculture, but also retail trade, construction, and other sectors) in Connecticut, and increase Connecticut’s real personal income by $15 million in 2012 dollars.
• These provisions will increase tourism to the U.S., including to Connecticut - which saw approximately 307,000 overseas visitors in 2011.
An August 2014 poll by FOX News found that by a more than three-to-one margin, voters nationwide would pick immigration reform that only includes a pathway to citizenship over no Congressional action at all. The poll finds 65 percent of voters prefer legislation that only focuses on creating a pathway for certain illegal immigrants if that’s the only action Congress takes on immigration this year. The survey also found substantial bipartisan agreement on the issue: 76 percent of Democrats and 56 percent of Republicans say something is better than nothing on immigration reform, and 60 percent of independents agree, FOX News reported.