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Immigrants, economics go hand-in-hand

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If you don't believe it is “fake news” that President Trump expressed his frustration over people entering the U.S. from “shithole countries” such as Haiti, El Salvador and those in Africa, then there are a whole bunch of reasons to be concerned, beginning with the outright disdain for these peoples.

Then there’s the economics of it all. Imagine being among those allegedly singled out by the president. You go to work each day and make tangible contributions to your employer, community and local economy, only to be told by the leader of the free world you’re not wanted here. You think it stings?

Reverberations from the remarks confirmed by some and denied (or supposedly not heard) by others at the Jan. 11 Oval Office meeting on immigration are being felt far and wide, including here in New Jersey.

The Haitian community, for one, has established deep roots in the state. New Jersey has the fourth-largest Haitian population in the nation, according to the 2010 U.S. Census, trailing only Florida, New York and Massachusetts.

One need only venture into communities such as Orange, Irvington, Newark and Roselle to experience the Haitian influence on those local economies. Haitian-owned businesses line the streets, owned and operated by proud immigrants and their families.

Now while the Norwegians apparently can rest easy having received a bye from the president, imagine all the other immigrant populations he wishes hadn’t given us their tired, poor and huddled masses yearning to breathe free.

Yet it is precisely these people — Haitians, Salvadorans, Africans and all others who have migrated here and made positive economic contributions — who are critical to keeping New Jersey running.

These statistics from the American Immigration Council tell a compelling story:

  • More than 22 percent of the state’s population was born in another country, and about 1.3 million immigrant workers comprised 27.8 percent of the labor force in 2015.
  • Immigrant-led households in New Jersey paid $13.1 billion in federal taxes and $6.5 billion in state and local taxes in 2014.
  • Undocumented immigrants in the state paid about $587.4 million in state and local taxes in 2014; that figure would rise to $661.1 million if they could receive legal status.
  • DACA recipients in New Jersey paid an estimated $66 million in state and local taxes in 2016.
  • New Jersey residents in immigrant-led households had $54.6 billion in spending power (after-tax income) in 2014.
  • Self-employed immigrant business owners here generated $3.3 billion in business income in 2015.
  • Also in 2015, immigrants accounted for 35.2 percent of business owners in the New York/Northern New Jersey/Long Island metropolitan area.
  • New Jersey’s immigrant workers were most numerous in the following industries: health care and social assistance; manufacturing; retail trade; accommodation and food services; and professional, scientific, and technical services.
  • In 2015, immigrant workers were most numerous in the following occupation groups: management; office and administrative support; sales and related; transportation and material moving; and food preparation and serving related.
  • The largest shares of immigrant workers can be found over a wide range of occupation groups: computer and mathematical sciences; farming, fishing and forestry; building and grounds cleaning and maintenance; production; and health care support.

We’ve been told the president is not one for details, but these numbers cannot be ignored. The economic vibrancy of our state (and the 49 others) heavily depends on the contributions of those who came here to carve out their piece of the dream.

Instead of disparaging them, praise them. They, too, are helping to make America great.

Howard Burns is editor of NJBIZ.

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Write to the Editorial Department at editorial@njbiz.com

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Maria Semple January 25, 2018 5:32 am

Thank you for reminding us of the statistics on just how much the immigrant community contributes to New Jersey. Facts Matter!

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