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Economics of Immigration

Our American Immigrant Entrepreneurs: The Women

By Susan Pearce, Elizabeth Clifford and Reena Tandon

When Americans picture an immigrant entrepreneur, they likely imagine a man who began the migration of his family, later bringing his wife over to become a volunteer assistant in the shop. This image is straying farther and farther from reality as more women open their own enterprises. Yet the idea that immigrant women might be the owners and originators of some of our restaurants, motels, Silicon Valley hi-tech firms, local real-estate agencies, or other entrepreneurial ventures has yet to become conventional wisdom.

Today, immigrant women entrepreneurs abound in every region of the United States. In 2010 for example, 40 percent of all immigrant business owners were women (1,451,091 immigrant men and 980,575 immigrant women). That same year, 20 percent of all women business owners were foreign-born. These numbers indicate that there is a quiet revolution of immigrant women’s business ownership that is organically growing, but is going relatively unnoticed in the culture at large.

In this report, we asked women from a range of business sectors in several cities to tell us why and how they started their ventures, what challenges they faced, what their businesses mean to them, and what contributions they are making.­

Published On: Thu, Dec 08, 2011 | Download File

Bad for Business: How Alabama’s Anti-Immigrant Law Stifles State Economy

Although key provisions of Alabama’s HB 56 are on hold while its constitutionality is being tested in the courts, evidence is mounting of the growing fiscal and economic impact of the new law. State economic experts and business leaders agree that the law has already caused hardship for Alabama’s businesses and citizens.
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Published On: Wed, Nov 09, 2011 | Download File

Rebooting the American Dream: The Role of Immigration in a 21st Century Economy

There is plenty of evidence that immigration helps to fuel the U.S. economy, just as it has throughout our history. Immigrants continue to play an important role in the economy as workers, entrepreneurs, taxpayers, and consumers. However, most observers agree that our current immigration system is outdated and dysfunctional, making it more difficult for the U.S. to compete in the global marketplace. The last time Congress made significant changes to the employment-based immigration system was 1990, when the Immigration Act of 1990 created the five-tiered employment-based immigration system and the numerical limits used today.

Our immigration system needs to be updated and overhauled, but inflamed rhetoric often obscures reform efforts. The first step in reforming our immigration system is to understand the basic facts surrounding the debate. This report seeks to answer some basic questions about the role of immigration in today’s economy.

Read the Executive Summary

Read the Full Report

Published On: Tue, Nov 08, 2011 | Download File

Fiscally Irresponsible: Immigration Enforcement without Reform Wastes Taxpayer Dollars

Many political pundits, GOP presidential aspirants, and Members of Congress want to have it both ways when it comes to federal spending on immigration. On the one hand, there is much talk about the need for fiscal austerity, and a Congressional “super-committee” is currently working on slashing federal spending in order to reduce the deficit. On the other hand, even though the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) just announced a record high number of deportations, some still want to increase federal spending on immigration enforcement; putting more Border Patrol boots on the ground, completing the border fence, and deploying an array of high-tech gadgetry. However, they miss one very important fact: piling on more immigration enforcement without immigration reform is a practical and fiscal dead-end. Read more...

Published On: Wed, Oct 19, 2011 | Download File

Unauthorized Immigrants Pay Taxes, Too

Estimates of the State and Local Taxes Paid by Unauthorized Immigrant Households

Tax Day is an appropriate time to underscore the often-overlooked fact that unauthorized immigrants pay taxes.  The unauthorized, like everyone else in the United States, pay sales taxes.  They also pay property taxes—even if they rent.  At least half of unauthorized immigrants pay income taxes.  Add this all up and it amounts to billions in revenue to state and local governments.  The Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) has estimated the state and local taxes paid in 2010 by households that are headed by unauthorized immigrants. These households may include members who are U.S. citizens or legal immigrants.  Collectively, these households paid $11.2 billion in state and local taxes.  That included $1.2 billion in personal income taxes, $1.6 billion in property taxes, and $8.4 billion in sales taxes.  The states receiving the most tax revenue from households headed by unauthorized immigrants were California ($2.7 billion), Texas ($1.6 billion), Florida ($806.8 million), New York ($662.4 million), and Illinois ($499.2 million) {See Figure 1 and Table 1}.  These figures should be kept in mind as politicians and commentators continue with the seemingly endless debate over what to do with unauthorized immigrants already living in the United States.  In spite of the fact that they lack legal status, these immigrants—and their family members—are adding value to the U.S. economy; not only as taxpayers, but as workers, consumers, and entrepreneurs as well. Read more...

Published On: Mon, Apr 18, 2011 | Download File

The U.S. Economy Still Needs Highly Skilled Foreign Workers

And Arbitrary Caps on H-1B Visas Still Don’t Meet that Need

It might seem that persistently high unemployment rates over the past few years have rendered moot the debate over whether or not the United States really “needs” the highly skilled foreign workers who come here on H-1B temporary visas.  But the demand for H-1B workers still far outstrips the current cap of only 65,000 new H-1B visas that can be issued each year.  In fact, from fiscal year 1997 to 2011, employers exhausted this quota before the fiscal year was over (except from 2001 to 2003, when the ceiling was temporarily increased).  As a number of studies make clear, the presence in a company of highly skilled foreign workers whose abilities and talents complement those of native-born workers actually creates new employment opportunities for American workers.  Yet the arbitrary numerical limits placed on H-1Bs are incapable of responding to the changing demand for H-1B workers.  This is unfortunate, given that the international competitiveness of the U.S. economy will continue to depend heavily on the contributions of H-1B professionals and other high-skilled workers from abroad for many decades to come. Read more...

Published On: Wed, Mar 30, 2011 | Download File

Statistical Hot Air: FAIR’s USA Report Lacks Credibility

Many politicians who champion the deport-them-all approach to unauthorized immigrants have been relying upon a bloated and deeply distorted report issued by the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) in July 2010.  That report, The Fiscal Burden of Illegal Immigration on United States Taxpayers, is not a credible source of data, yet its numbers have been cited repeatedly in this year’s debates over immigration legislation in the states.  The report relies upon flawed and empirically baseless assumptions to inflate its estimate of the costs which unauthorized immigrants impose on federal, state, and local governments.  Much of what FAIR counts as the cost of unauthorized immigration is actually the cost of education and healthcare for U.S.-citizen children.  In fact, over half of FAIR’s cost estimate consists of educational and healthcare expenditures for the children of unauthorized immigrants, of whom nearly three-quarters are native-born U.S. citizens.  These native-born children are counted as a “cost” of illegal immigration if they are under 18, but as U.S. citizens if they are working, taxpaying adults.  In its rush to place a price tag on unauthorized immigrants, FAIR is unable to see that investing in children today pays off economically tomorrow.  FAIR also neglects to mention the enormous fiscal and economic costs that would be incurred by attempting to remove unauthorized immigrants from the United States.  As the negative impact of anti-immigrant legislation on the fiscal bottom-line becomes more apparent, many taxpayers may begin to see that the “costs” cited by FAIR do not tell the whole story. Read more...

Published On: Tue, Mar 29, 2011 | Download File

A Rising Tide or a Shrinking Pie

By Raúl Hinojosa-Ojeda, Ph.D.

Our national debate over urgently needed immigration reform is now careening through our state legislatures, city halls, and town councils due to political gridlock at the federal level. And nowhere is that debate more contentious than in Arizona, where in April of last year the state’s legislature sought to rid the state of undocumented immigrants with passage of S.B. 1070. The law is specifically designed to trigger a mass exodus of undocumented immigrants from the state by making “attrition through enforcement the public policy of all state and local government agencies in Arizona.”

The economic analysis in this report shows the S.B. 1070 approach would have devastating economic consequences if its goals were accomplished. When undocumented workers are taken out of the economy, the jobs they support through their labor, consumption, and tax payments disappear as well. Particularly during a time of profound economic uncertainty, the type of economic dislocation envisioned by S.B. 1070-type policies runs directly counter to the interests of our nation as we continue to struggle to distance ourselves from the ravages of the Great Recession.Read more...

Published On: Thu, Mar 24, 2011 | Download File

Immigration Reform and Job Growth

Legalizing Unauthorized Immigrants Would Boost the U.S. Economy

With the U.S. unemployment rate hovering at 10%, some have questioned whether or not now is really the right time for comprehensive immigration reform that includes the creation of a pathway to legal status for unauthorized immigrants already living in the United States.  Underlying this uncertainty is the fear that native-born Americans will lose out on scarce jobs if currently unauthorized immigrants acquire legal status—despite the obvious fact that unauthorized immigrants are already here and in the labor force.  However, the best available evidence suggests that neither legal nor unauthorized immigration is the cause of high unemployment, and that the higher wages and purchasing power which formerly unauthorized immigrants would enjoy were they to receive legal status would sustain new jobs.  Read more...

Published On: Thu, Jan 20, 2011 | Download File