Report says immigrants bolster state’s economy, workforce

[private]Immigrant communities contribute close to $2 billion in state and local taxes to Georgia’s economy and make up a substantial percentage of the workforce as well, according to a report released Wednesday by the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute.

“Georgia cannot remain a state with a vibrant economy and high quality of life if it fails to welcome immigrants, treat them fairly and maximize their positive contributions to local communities,” GBPI analyst Wesley Tharpe said.

The report said immigrants “contributed nearly $1.8 billion in state and local taxes in 2012, the most recent year available. Even undocumented Georgians contributed an estimated $352 million in state and local taxes in 2012, according to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy.”

Foreign-born workers also provide an estimated 23 percent of the state’s doctors, 26 percent of software developers, 28 percent of skilled construction tradesmen and 42 percent of farm laborers, according to the report.

The GBPI report was released in the midst of an intense public debate, both here and nationally, over U.S. policies on immigration and the resettlement of refugees from areas like war-torn Syria.

Presidential candidates, particularly in the Republican primary, have called for a ban on all Muslim immigrants and urged the building of a fence at the Mexican border.

Gov. Nathan Deal demanded that Syrian refugees not be resettled in Georgia, although this has continued to take place, and has ordered state agencies not to accept applications from Syrian refugees for food stamps.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, on the other hand, contends that Georgia should not “close all borders” to refugees and immigrants.

State Sen. Josh McKoon (R-Columbus) announced Monday he is introducing a constitutional amendment in the next General Assembly session declaring English to be the official language of the state government, a proposal that has been floated in earlier sessions.

“English is the tie that binds us as Americans and is the indisputable language of success in the United States,” McKoon said. “All this resolution would do is strengthen what our state’s position currently is and commit that position to our state constitution.”

McKoon said his proposed measure will also “prohibit discrimination, penalties or other limits on participation against a person who speaks only English.”

GBPI’s report, which examines the issue largely on economic grounds, contends that, “as immigrants start businesses, buy homes, earn wages and spend disposable income at local businesses, they generate considerable state and local tax revenue regardless of citizenship status.”

The report recommends that lawmakers give thought to “removing barriers to higher education, allowing unauthorized immigrants to access adult education programs like English literacy training, promoting cultural competence among local law enforcement, and opening local offices to help immigrants navigate entrepreneurial challenges like how to start a business and find startup capital.”

© 2015 by The Georgia Report

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Tags: GBPI , Georgia economy , immigrants , Josh McKoon , Nathan Deal , refugees , workforce