Immigration May Be Key to Connecticut's Economic Future (Again)

Immigrants may be a pivotal component in Connecticut’s economic strength – or weakness – in the coming decade, according to recent statistics.  Population projections from the University of Virginia’s Demographics Research Group, reported by the American Immigration Council, show that in many states in the Northeast and Midwest, including Connecticut, growth of the working-age population is slowing due to aging, lower fertility rates, and people moving out of the state. The aging of the workforce in the working-age population can mean shrinking workforces and potential economic problems, the Council reported recently. As a result, “states need to think about how immigration can ameliorate impending trouble.”

By 2020, the number of working age adults (age 25-54) is expected to decline in 16 states. For example, in Maine, while the overall population is expected to decrease by about two percent, the working age population will decline by 16 percent. Vermont and West Virginia can also expect declines of more than 10 percent, while Connecticut, Illinois, Michigan, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Wisconsin can expect more than five percent decline, according to the data.

Those states “will become less attractive to the people who are already there, and less attractive to newcomers,” according to UC-Berkeley demographer Ronald Lee, who explained that a shrinking working-age population can hurt a state’s economy: businesses close due to a lack of workers and customers, housing prices drop, schools close, and tax revenue declines.

The decline in the working-age population will not be offset by births, the Council reported, citing data the projects the current total fertility rate is about 1.86 children per woman and would need to be at least 2.08 for the population to replenish itself. At the same time, the U.S. population is getting older and living longer. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that by 2024, Americans age 55 and older will increase by 18.2 million—reaching 102.9 million, or 38.2 percent of all people in the country.

Reliance on immigrants is nothing new for Connecticut.  The Connecticut Business and Industry Association recently cited statistics from the New American Economy, which indicated that 494,059 Connecticut residents were born abroad.  That is 14 percent of the state’s population, compared to 13 percent across the United States.

For example, almost a quarter (23%) of Connecticut workers in science, technology, engineering, and math fields such as healthcare and bioscience were immigrants.  Over 36,000 foreign-born Connecticut residents are self-employed, with immigrant-owned businesses generating $1.1 billion income in 2014 while employing 73,047 people. “Immigrants are already playing a huge part ensuring that Connecticut remains a leading innovator in industries like healthcare and bioscience,” according to the analysis.

The report also notes that foreign-born workers currently make up 21.3 percent of all entrepreneurs in the state, despite accounting for 13.7 percent of Connecticut’s population.

Immigration mitigates the downward population trends that are anticipated, in Connecticut and beyond. In many areas of the country, the foreign born have accounted for more than 20 percent of the growth of the adult population since 1990. In some areas – mainly in the Midwest – overall adult population would have declined if not for an increase in the foreign born population. Almost half of immigrants admitted between 2003 and 2012 were between the ages of 20 and 40, while only 5 percent were ages 65 or older, the Council reported.

$100,000 Grant to Nonprofit Collaborative Efforts to Assist Immigrants in Connecticut

George Soros has been a prominent international supporter of democratic ideals and causes for more than 30 years. His philanthropic organization, the Open Society Foundations, supports democracy and human rights in more than 100 countries. Now, the Open Society Foundation’s Emma Lazarus II Fund has officially granted $100,000 to The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven (CFGNH) on behalf of the Immigrant Strategic Funders Collaborative for Connecticut (The Collaborative) for the period that began on November 1, 2015 and continues through December 31, 2016.Open Society Foundation Logo

The Collaborative aims to provide matching funds to enhance statewide efforts and local work supporting Connecticut’s immigrant families.

The Collaborative seeks to increase the numbers of applicants for administrative relief under these programs, to ensure the applicants are screened for eligibility for more permanent immigration benefits and to continue to expand current advocacy work in support of stronger protections from detention, deportation and abuse.immigrant

The grant comes as the organization prepares to move forward with implementation of both Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA) and the expansion of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), under President Obama’s 2014 Executive Actions.  Officials indicate that to achieve their objectives, The Collaborative will prioritize the following:

  • Increasing access for undocumented immigrants to a full spectrum of immigration services, including legal services;
  • Promoting the understanding of DACA and DAPA and to support outreach to DACA-eligible and DAPA-eligible residents across Connecticut;
  • Strengthening advocacy efforts at the local and State levels in support of public policy and public funding that will address the needs of undocumented immigrants and will advance the utilization of DACA and DAPA; and
  • Enhancing the capacity of immigrant serving and advocacy nonprofit organizations through funding and through supporting the sharing of knowledge and best practices.

community-foundation-560x302Thus far, eight leading funding institutions in Connecticut have expressed their intentions to commit financial contributions in support of the Collaborative goals utilizing their institutional grant-making process.  Those organizations include Fairfield County’s Community Foundation, Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, Hispanic Federation, Perrin Family Foundation, Progreso Latino Fund (a committee-advised fund at CFGNH), Tariq Farid Foundation and The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven.

Officials say that the success of The Collaborative will depend largely on the partnerships it can build with service providers, advocacy organizations and others throughout the State of Connecticut that share the goal of enhancing the lives of undocumented immigrants. The Collaborative is working with a growing list of organizations, with further additions anticipated.  Among those thus far:

  • Apostle Immigration Services (New Haven)
  • Center for Latino Progress (Hartford)
  • City of New Haven
  • City of Hamden
  • Congregations Organized for a New Connecticut (New Haven and Bridgeport)
  • Connecticut Parent Power (Statewide)
  • Connecticut Students for a Dream (Statewide)
  • Elm City Internationals (New Haven)
  • Hartford Public Library (Hartford)
  • International Institute of Connecticut (Statewide)
  • Junta for Progressive Action (New Haven)
  • Neighbors Link Stamford (Stamford)
  • New Haven Legal Assistance Association (New Haven)
  • Unidad Latina en Acción (New Haven)
  • Yale Law School Worker and Immigrant Rights Clinic (New Haven)

View From Abroad: Connecticut, Land of Opportunity

Connecticut, seen from afar, is the land of opportunity.  At least that would appear to be the view of people from all over the world who moved into the Constitution State from outside the U.S. - an increase of 23,862 residents - during a recent five-year period. Data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey indicates that between 2008 and 2012, each of Connecticut’s eight counties saw an influx of people moving here from abroad.

The new Connecticut residents from beyond the nation’s borders landed mostly in Fairfield, Hartford and New Haven counties, but each county in the state saw new arrivals from abroad  during the five-year survey period.

Here is the county-by-county breakdown:translations-globe-300x300

Fairfield County                +8,569

Hartford County               +5,848

New Haven county         +5,510

New London County      +1,356

Tolland County                  +959

Middlesex County           +804

Litchfield County              +412

Windham County             +404

According to the Migration Policy Institute, 13.8 percent of Connecticut's overall population in 2012 was foreign born, up from 10.9 percent in 2000.  Of the 2012 immigrant population, 8.9 percent came to the United States after 2010, 31.6  percent between 2000 and 2009, and 22 percent between 1990 and 1999.

The American Community Survey (ACS) is a mandatory, ongoing statistical survey by the U.S. Census that samples a small percentage of the population every year -- giving communities the information they need to plan investments and services. The Migration Policy Institute is an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit think tank in Washington, DC dedicated to analysis of the movement of people worldwide.



Hartford as Global City: Immigrant Civic Engagement Initiative Gains Recognition

Hartford is quite an international city, a melting pot of cultures and backgrounds that most assume is the exclusive province of major metropolitan areas such as New York and Boston.  But in language, nation of origin, and cultural traditions, virtually every corner of the globe is represented in Connecticut’s Capitol City, and its surrounding communities.

In fact, Hartford is a popular resettlement city, with about 25 percent of the city’s population recent immigrants.  To respond to the significant need among the various immigrant communities for assistance and guidance in navigating language barriers and cultural differences and more fully integrating into their new home community, a partneHartfordPublicLibraryPicturership of Hartford-based organizations stepped up in a way that has proven quite effective, and is gaining national recognition.

The Hartford Public Library received funding in 2010 for an Immigrant Civic Engagement Project through the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), to develop a comprehensive program to promote immigrant civic engagement.  The initiative had two goals:globe

  • Facilitate the transition of newly arrived immigrants into the community and build trusting relationships of mutual understanding between new and longtime residents
  • Engage established immigrants in civic integration and facilitate their involvement in broader community building efforts

At the annual conference of the international Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action (ARNOVA), hosted recently by Hartford and held at the Connecticut Convention Center, the leaders of the ground-breaking Hartford partnership were called upon to lead a session to outline their work for those who may seek to emulate it in other communities across the country.

Among the presenters was Richard Frieder, Director of Community Development & Civic Engagement within the Cultural Affairs & Public Programming Department and Center for Civic Engagement of the Hartford Public Library.  Frieder was joined by Homa Naficy, Chief Adult Learning Officer and Nancy Caddigan, Intercultural Liaison of the Hartford Public Library, and Kyle Barrette and Rebecca Thomas of the UConn School of Social Work.

Innovative Approaches, Impactful Outcomes

Their session, called “Innovative Approaches to Community Development in a Challenging Economy and Changing Society,” was well-received by conference participant from across the country.  They focused on “effectiveness, evaluation and programs,” outlining what was done and why – and how it all worked.

  • They described an effort that engages immigrants and “receiving” community members, social service providers and other immigrant advocates, highlighting the importance of building networks of trusting relationships.
  • The initiative provided an opportunity to address immigrant voices isolated from the mainstream, respond to language and economic barriers, and address the lack of engagement in community and civic associations.
  • The program featured “cultural navigators” – some of them bilingual - and community dialogues – held at the Library’s American Place - all aimed at improving the immigrant experience in Hartford.

Most of all, it created bonds between existing members of the community – many of them retired teachers and social workers who volunteered to be “cultural navigators” – and immigrants looking to adcivic engagementjust to their new land.

New connections were developed between city officials, organizations and service providers to the immigrant and refugee community, and both the immigrant community and receiving community became engaged in community building.  There was also outreach to churches, community centers and other neighborhood organizations.

Over three hundred people were involved across all activities of the three year project.

The outcomes were substantial, and included the development of strong relationships, an increased awareness of immigrant issues, integration of immigrant and refugee families within their local communities, and increased social capital for immigrant as well as receiving communities.  In addition, action teams focused on new community projects, municipal and organizational investment in immigrant and refugee issues was enhanced, and a City Commission on Immigrant Affairs was established.Hartford_CT

UConn School of Social Work students, as part of the grant-funded initiative, served as program evaluators, maintaining a rigorous evaluation of outcomes, and an audit trail of activities so that the entire project could be replicated.

At the end of the day, organizers hope that the program has effectively “changed the way that people think about immigrants – and the Capitol City.”  Hartford is a global community.  And it has produced a program that can help immigrants here and elsewhere to settle in and excel.

Immigration Becomes Focus at State Capitol

Immigration continues to be not only part of the American historical fabric, but one of the current hot button issues in Congress and the country. The Connecticut Immigrant Rights Alliance (CIRA) is organizing a rally that will march from the Old State House to the State Capitol on April 10, beginning at 3:30 PM.  Organizers say “the time is now” for a “realistic path to citizenship” and “reform that keeps families together, raises standards for all working people, and keeps the economy strong.”  They will be urging President Obama and Congress to pass “common sense immigration reform” this year.

The following day, April 11, the Connecticut Immigrant and Refugee Coalition will host the 16th annual Connecticut Immigrant Day ceremony at the State Capitol’s Old Appropriations Room from 1:00 to 2:30 PM.  The keynote speaker will be Jose B. Gonzales of New London, associate professor of English at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, and the recipient of the Connecticut Department of Education's Faculty of the Year Award in higher education.  A native Spanish speaker, he was born in San Salvador, and is an Essayist and Poet.immigration

In a recent public opinion poll, sixty-eight percent (68%) of likely U.S. voters think immigration - when done within the law - is good for America. The Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey fund that only 19% disagree and feel legal immigration is bad for the country. Thirteen percent (13%) are not sure.

The recently formed CIRA is comprised of immigrant families, community leaders and elected officials -  a new statewide coalition calling for a path to citizenship for all undocumented immigrants, an end to family separations, and a moratorium on deportations.

The nonprofit Connecticut Immigrant and Refugee Coalition (CIRC) was established in 1996 as a broad-based network of community agencies, religious groups, legal service providers and immigrant rights activists committed to protecting the rights and welfare of refugee and immigrant communities in the state. Within this network, numerous refugee and immigrant groups are represented.

Amidst all the policy discussion, the Hartford Public Library conducts free citizenship classes on Saturday mornings, 10 am- 12 pm, for a 12-week cycle, at the branch at 1250 Albany Avenue.  They also offer DVDs, CDs and books to support the classes, and volunteer tutors are available on request.  The classes are funded in part by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service, according to the Library.