Immigrants Contribute to Maryland Economy
A recent report from The Commission to Study the Impact of Immigrants in Maryland found that immigrants have a positive impact on Maryland’s economy. The foreign-born population makes up nearly 14 percent of Maryland’s total population. This number is above the national average of foreign-born people in the United States, as well as the foreign-born percentages in states like Virginia and Arizona. International immigration was responsible for over half of the workforce expansion that occurred in Maryland between 2000 and 2010.
An important contribution made by immigrants was their participation in agriculture, seafood, construction, tourism, and transportation. For example, each year, Maryland’s crab industry recruits Mexican women to come to the eastern shore of Maryland and employs them in seasonal crab picking jobs. The industry is highly reliant on these immigrant women, who come to the United States on H-2B temporary worker visas, to produce the seafood that in turn brings in millions of dollars of revenue for the Maryland economy. Without contributions from workers like these women, industry growth would have stagnated and negatively impacted the state economy.
The report also focused on the connection between the economy and education. It noted that providing education to children of unauthorized immigrants may initially strain the education system, but it has produced long-term benefits. Children of immigrants who attend the public school system will likely become part of the Maryland workforce after they finish school. Therefore, children of immigrants should have the opportunity to get the best education possible so they can make skilled, informed contributions to the economy. A report from the Migration Policy Institute emphasizes this point by noting that better-educated immigrants are beneficial to the overall economy, in part because education reduces poverty and reliance on welfare.
The Commission’s report looked at the fiscal impact that immigrants have on the economy. It noted that while unauthorized immigrants receive benefits, such as medical care and education, these costs are weighed against income received from unauthorized immigrants who have taxes subtracted from their earnings and do not receive refunds for excessive withholding. The fiscal drain that would result from the loss of part of the United States labor force, especially in the lesser-skilled positions, cautions against policies that further restrict immigrant workers from entering the United States.
Two practices could help improve relations between immigrants who come to the United States seeking jobs and United States citizens. First, the government could focus more effort on locating and punishing employers who are hiring unauthorized immigrants. This would discourage employers from driving down the wage rate, which occurs when employers hire unauthorized immigrants and pay them lower wages than authorized workers. Increasing consequences and reducing incentives for hiring unauthorized immigrants would in turn slow the flow of unauthorized immigrants who enter the United States, and lessen the need for expenditures that are used to find and deport unauthorized immigrants. Second, the government could strengthen its labor laws to ensure that employers of migrant workers who are authorized to work in the United States are complying with federal working conditions and occupational safety standards. The opportunity to obtain adequate wages and job training would hopefully encourage more immigrants to make the effort to obtain temporary worker visas rather than enter the country undocumented. Assuring immigrants receive proper job training would also give them the skills they need to contribute successfully to the United States economy.
For the report from The Commission to Study the Impact of Immigrants in Maryland, click here:
For more information on the migrant female workers in the Maryland crab industry, click here.
For the report from the Migration Policy Institute, click here: