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One of the most controversial topics in our country now is immigration. We often hear, especially from the current administration, that immigrants are causing more harm than good. However, nationally, the facts say otherwise. According to the Center for American Progress, immigrants add trillions of dollars to the national GDP, and their contributions are becoming only more significant yearly. However, there was no data on the economic contributions of immigrants locally.
Until now, that is.
On Tuesday, February 20th, Latino Memphis and New American Economy released “New Americans in Memphis: A Snapshot of the Demographic and Economic Contributions of Immigrants in the Metro Area” at a reception with Mayor Jim Strickland celebrating Barrier Free, an art installation honoring diversity, by Yancy Villa.
Immigrants not only contributed $4.2 billion to the area’s GDP in 2015 but contributed 481.8M in taxes as well. They also contributed $191.0 million to Social Security and 46.9M to Medicare. Despite only making up 5.2 percent of the area’s overall population, immigrants in Memphis represent 7.1 percent of the employed labor force and 14.4 percent of its STEM workers in 2015.
The report by New American Economy also found:
“Today, facts matter more than ever, and this report sheds light on the contributions that new and aspiring Americans bring into our local economy. The report also shows some of our opportunities for growth, particularly around education. Memphis needs to consider immigrants, refugees and the US born generations that follow them as part of our smart growth strategy.” said Mauricio Calvo, Executive Director at Latino Memphis.
As we commemorate MLK50 in Memphis, his words “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere...whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly” ring true today. Immigrants in Memphis and around the country are often seen as an issue to be solved rather than an asset to be valued. I am hopeful that the information in this report will help honor his legacy by helping eradicate the injustices that immigrants are facing.
In this climate of false information and myths, it is important to be purveyors of truth. If the question is whether immigrants, regardless of status, are contributing to our local economy, the answer is a resounding yes.
Click here to read the full report