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Study: Immigrants Vital to WA's Economy

A new study says 63 percent of Washington's agricultural workers are immigrants. (Mahalie Stackpole/Flickr)
A new study says 63 percent of Washington's agricultural workers are immigrants. (Mahalie Stackpole/Flickr)
August 17, 2016

SEATTLE - Immigrants are playing crucial roles in Washington State's economy, according to a new study.

The Partnership for a New American Economy report shows the state's immigrant population of nearly one-million is vital to the agricultural and technology sectors. For instance, 45 percent of software developers in 2014 were from abroad.

Maud Daudon, president and CEO of the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, said the STEM fields are facing the greatest shortage of trained workers, and there simply aren't enough Washingtonians at the moment to fill the gap.

"We have great growth in this field and we have the opportunity to lean in to some of the folks that are newest in our economy to help fill some of these incredibly important jobs and create new ones for everybody for the future," she said.

While immigrants make up 13 percent of the population, they are 18 percent of the state's entrepreneurs, according to the study.

Jeremy Robbins, executive director of the Partnership for a New American Economy, said immigrants also are paying their share of taxes. In 2014, foreign-born Washingtonians earned more than $30 billion and paid more than $8 billion back in local, state and federal taxes.

"That is a huge boon for the fiscal health of the state, it's also a huge boon through their consumption and the money that they're pouring into the economy that are creating jobs," he said.

The study also found that 63 percent of workers in Washington's agricultural field are immigrants, and that one-third of the workforce is undocumented. Daudon believes the country is in need of comprehensive immigration reform to sustain many of the state's industries.

"Understanding the contribution that these folks make once they are actually legally permitted into our country is also critical. It's big, it's important to our economy and we forego opportunity if we close our doors," she added.

The full study can be read here.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - WA