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Illinois Economy Sees Big Gains from Immigrants

Illinois immigration reform advocates point to a new study that shows the state's foreign-born population makes major contributions to local economies. (iStockphoto)
Illinois immigration reform advocates point to a new study that shows the state's foreign-born population makes major contributions to local economies. (iStockphoto)
August 22, 2016

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Immigrants are adding vital benefits to Illinois' economy, according to a new study.

The Partnership for a New American Economy report shows the state's immigrant population of about 1.7 million is crucial to the service and technology sectors.

For instance, nearly 38 percent of software developers in 2014 were from abroad.

Chicago-based immigration lawyer Tejas Shah says the science and technology sectors, and the service industry, face shortages of trained workers – and in Illinois, there aren't enough to fill the gap.

"I work with employers in various industries that have highly specialized needs, where they struggle to find American workers,” he relates. “I think people need to recognize the contributions that immigrants are making on a daily basis to life in Illinois."

The study says Illinois has the sixth largest immigrant population in the country, and those residents are 35 percent more likely to be working than native-born Illinoisans.

Jeremy Robbins, executive director of the Partnership for a New American Economy, says immigrants are paying their share of taxes.

In 2014, foreign-born Illinois workers earned $55 billion and paid $15 billion dollars in local, state and federal taxes.

"That is a huge boon for the fiscal health of the state,” he stresses. “It's also a huge boon through their consumption and the money that they're pouring into the economy. They're creating jobs."

The study also found Illinois' immigrant population has helped create or preserve more than 80,000 manufacturing jobs in the state.

Shah maintains immigrants could contribute more if the country passes comprehensive federal immigration reform.

"We make it so difficult for entrepreneurs to get visas to stay here,” he states. “And some of these folks are starting some of the most exciting businesses out there – that are going to create jobs, and are creating jobs for plenty of American workers."

The research estimates Illinois is home to about 32,000 undocumented entrepreneurs.



Brandon Campbell, Public News Service - IL