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Benefited Not Burdened: Immigrants’ Impact on the DC-VA-MD Area

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Immigrants, both authorized and unauthorized, contribute greatly to the economies of the District of Columbia, Virginia, and Maryland. With close to 1.8 million immigrants in the DC-VA-MD[1] area, immigrants are helping to revitalize the economy through entrepreneurship, consumer spending, and by contributing to the tax base.

Economic activity, consumer spending, and job creation are extremely important as the nation recovers from the economic crisis. The DC-VA-MD area is on a path to recovery, due in large part to the immigrant population and their economic activity. It is not just authorized immigrants who are leading the economy’s revitalization, but also unauthorized immigrants are playing a significant role. If unauthorized immigrants were removed from the DC-VA-MD area, the area would lose $27.6 billion in economic activity, $12.3 billion in gross state product, and 141,585 jobs. Immigrants also contribute greatly to the area’s tax base. In the Washington, DC metropolitan area alone, immigrants contributed $9.8 billion in taxes in 2000. And in Maryland, immigrants contributed $4.0 billion in federal, state, and local taxes in 2000. And with an ever increasing immigrant population, taxes paid by immigrants will continue to rise. Due to the immigrant population and their activities in the DC-VA-MD area, the area has been greatly benefited and it will continue to benefit from the presence of immigrants if permitted.

Furthermore, immigrants who call the District, Virginia, and Maryland home are well educated and highly skilled. Accordingly, immigrants greatly benefit the area’s economy and they are helping contribute to the economy’s revitalization. In the District, 51.5% of foreign born naturalized citizens and 47.2% of non-citizens hold a bachelor’s or higher degree, which is only slightly less than Census Bureau’s 2011 estimates for the whole of the District, at 52.5%. Thus, immigrants residing in the District are just as educated as non-immigrants and are therefore they are able to significantly contribute to the District’s tax base and economic activity.

In Maryland and Virginia, the rate of immigrants who hold Bachelor’s or higher degrees is significantly higher than the estimates for the whole of these two states. Immigrants here are more educated that the domestic born population. In Virginia, 40.7% of all immigrants have a bachelor’s or higher degree, while only a little more than one third of Virginia’s entire population has a bachelor’s or higher degree. Thus, immigrants make up 16.6% of all bachelor’s or higher degrees held in Virginia.  Similarly, 40.3% of all immigrants in Maryland have a bachelor’s or higher degree, while the state rate of bachelor’s or higher degree is 36.9%. Therefore, almost one fifth of all bachelor’s or higher degrees in Maryland are held by immigrants. While statistically, the DC-VA-MD area has a higher rate of bachelor’s or higher degrees compared to the national average, which only hit 30% this year, immigrants contribute greatly to this higher than average rate. And with such a significant percentage of immigrants holding Bachelor’s or higher degrees, these states’ economies can’t help but be benefited.

With a highly educated immigrant work force, immigrants are playing an important role in areas that greatly impact society and the economy. In Maryland, the sciences and healthcare are greatly benefited by the local immigrant population. A 2006 study found that over one-quarter of all scientists, that over one-fifth of all healthcare providers, and that one-fifth of mathematicians and computer specialists working in Maryland are foreign born. Thus, the District, Virginia, and Maryland can ill afford to lose their immigrants as they play a vital role in maintaining a stable economy in the area.

Additionally, the DC-VA-MD area has one of the largest immigrant communities in the country; only California, the Tri-State area, Texas, Hawaii, and Florida have larger immigrant populations. Immigrants in the DC-VA-MD area do not only benefit the area’s economy, but also they greatly influence politics and government affairs. Many of the immigrants in the DC-VA-MD area are naturalized U.S. citizens. While only a third of the immigrants living in the District have become naturalized U.S. citizens, nearly half of all immigrants in Virginia and Maryland have obtained this status. As naturalized U.S. citizens, these immigrants have obtained the right to vote. Thus, many immigrants in the District, Virginia, and Maryland are helping influence and shape the area’s and the nation’s political landscape. And as seen in the last election, naturalized U.S. citizens are overwhelmingly using their right to vote now, more than ever before.

All immigrants, both authorized and unauthorized, are extremely important to the DC-VA-MD area. They are playing a role in revitalizing the economy, they are greatly contributing to the tax base and they are helping shape the nation’s politics. With a highly educated and skilled immigrant population, DC-VA-MD immigrants will only continue to see success as they help boost the area’s economy and make breakthroughs in their chosen fields. And with the number of immigrants residing in the DC-VA-MD area that are eligible to vote, immigrants are also shaping the political community and influencing political change. The DC-VA-MD area needs immigrants to remain a strong, economically vibrant, and racially diverse community.

[1] Immigrants in the District make up 13.5% of the population, or 83,599 people. In Maryland, 13.9% of the population is part of the immigrant population, or 811,701 people. And in Virginia, immigrants make up 11.1% of the population, or 900,243 people.

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