A clear message to Congress
A group of leaders and organizations nationwide launched during the first week of August the "Reason for Reform" campaign, through the New American Economy coalition.
Bringing together more than 500 Republican, Democrat, and Independent mayors as well as business leaders, the coalition is united under the mission of exposing economic data that supports the rationalization and modernization of the US immigration system.
With this in mind, the campaign published 51 new economic reports in August 3rd that show how immigration impacts communities across the country, and the need to reform the current immigration system.
Each of the reports includes data on the foreign population of each state as as well as Washington, D.C.. The studies include figures on their purchasing power, their tax contributions as well as their respective roles in different industries in the country.
In Philadelphia, regional campaign partners gathered at Independence Mall to announce the publication of the report corresponding to Pennsylvania.
Among those partners was Peter Gonzales, President and CEO of The Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians, an organization whose mission focuses on adapting and providing professional resources as a reference for the growing immigrant community in the region.
"In the last two decades, immigrants have played a decisive role in offsetting and reversing the population decline in cities and counties across the country," Gonzales said. "Pennsylvania has about one million residents born abroad, the tenth largest immigrant population in any other state."
Gonzales explained the role of his organization in accelerating the integration of immigrants and supporting economic development through education and training.
"Almost half of our population of customers are professionals who come to the U.S. educated and ready to work," Gonzales said. "In Pennsylvania, one in five professionals educated abroad are unemployed or in the wrong job."
There are currently 750,000 immigrants living in Pennsylvania. India, China and Mexico are the three main countries from which most come from.
According to a report from "Reason for Reform", foreign Pennsylvanian residents make contributions in key industries within the state, including crop production, computer systems design, vehicle industry and medicine. During his remarks, Gonzales noted that for too long this population has gone unnoticed despite the skills and experiences they bring to the workforce.
"Almost half of the Fortune 500 companies in Pennsylvania were started by immigrants or children of immigrants. These companies generate nearly $3 billion in annual revenue and employ more than half a million people worldwide," Gonzales said. "We agree that comprehensive immigration reform is necessary to take full advantage of international talent and yet, there is a group of professional immigrants already in the United States," he added.
Other results of the study suggest that besides representing 6.4 percent of the total population of Pennsylvania, the immigrant population contributed $ 7.1 billion in taxes in 2014.
That same year, their total income accounted for $ 25.8 billion, which equals 7.2 percent of the budget in the state.
Some counties received some level of benefits by their immigrant community. According to a study published by the Partnership for a New American Economy (NEAP) last July, between 2000 and 2014, the growth of the born-abroad population in Allegheny County increased the total value of housing in more than $1 trillion. In addition, the immigrant population in the same county had a purchasing power of $1.8 billion, or equivalent to 6.3 percent of total purchasing power in the country. The Asian community contributes $912 million in taxes and the Latino community $108 million.
Miriam Enriquez, director of the Office of Immigrant Affairs of the City of Philadelphia, was present during the announcement of the campaign.
"What better place to announce this new coalition than on Independence Mall. Here in Philadelphia, the cradle of our democracy, a city that understands the value of immigrants," Enriquez said. "A city with a mayor who understands the importance of promoting policies and programs that would enable immigrants to become part of our social community, civic and economically."
She added that to adapt and provide support to the immigrant community makes Philadelphia an even more phenomenal city.
"The reasons to pass immigration reform are many. None more important than the growth of the economy in this country. Because it is through economic growth that all Americans, both native and those born abroad, can really achieve the American Dream," Enriquez said.
Enriquez noted that Americans today face an outdated immigration system that hinders the growth and job acquisition for foreign businessmen, who face constant uncertainty about the future of their business.
"These immigrant businesses create jobs in Pennsylvania. Thousands of jobs created by these businesses should be sufficient to achieve immigration reform," she said.
According to the director of the Office of Immigrant Affairs , the launch of the campaign is an excellent opportunity to celebrate the contributions of immigrants, not only in Pennsylvania but across the country.
"We need to send a clear message that our future is not only immigrants but also depends on immigrants to make our future a bright future," she said.
Renee Amoore, president and CEO of The Amoore Group (TAG ) and member of the Chamber of Commerce of Philadelphia was another speaker at the event.
"Congress must take action to empower immigrants to their potential to reach its maximum, and thus create a stronger economy," Amoore said.
Since its inception, TAG’s mission has been providing consulting and expert technical assistance to client organizations. Being a minority and woman-owned company, Amoore said her wide range of clients are largely dependent on a staff with diversity.
"I want to share a couple of reasons why immigration reform is important. As a business owner, I rely on the talent of employees who have a source or different experience. To be successful and competitive, Congress must take action, " Amoore said.
The businesswoman added that the contributions of foreign workers are vital to the economy of Pennsylvania.
"We must have the ability to reach the talent of foreign workers to succeed. We must communicate to Congress that the need for immigration reform is imperative, we need a commitment by our leaders to attract and retain the necessary talent," she said. "In the U.S. this is very complicated, the time to replace workers is very long, particularly in industries that are falling behind in terms of global competition."
Describing herself as a descendant of the ' American Dream ' and a daughter of immigrant parents, Carolina DiGiorgio, the director of the Department of Commerce of Montgomery County, also joined the call of this coalition.
"The impact of the immigrant community can be felt in every corner of our country. The campaign "Reason for Reform" is taking place in each of the states, because everyone has stories to tell and each of them have a reason that immigration reform would impact their communities positively," DiGiorgio said. "This is a matter that goes beyond political parties, gender and economic status.”
The research was conducted jointly by a number of different companies such as Intel; the American Farm Bureau Federation; the American Immigration Lawyers Association, the United States Chamber of Commerce; the Essential Worker Immigration Coalition; Brad Feld ; Google; Microsoft; Pinterest; and Western Growers Association.
"This report is encouraging and supporting research that is already in development within the state," said State Department Secretary Pedro A. Cortés.
"New residents of Pennsylvania have contributed greatly to the communities and the quality of life in this state," he added. "I look forward to continuing this work through partnerships with NAE and other organizations focused on economic growth civilian labor force."
Since the launch of the campaign, NAE announced a total of 62 events throughout the country in which they’ll discuss the results of the campaign and future projects.
The WE Global Convening 2016, a conference in which more than 350 attendees will gather to welcome immigrants to help rebuild communities and economic growth, will be held Philadelphia.
"It is expected that during this event we can highlight the momentum of Philadelphia on this initiative and its achievements," Gonzales said. "The future of the social stability and economic prosperity of Pennsylvania is directly related to the valuable contributions of newcomers to our region. We must continue hosting and integrating this population because it will benefit all residents of the state. "
The New American Economy also launched a new digital tool that allows users to make a video describing their own reason for supporting immigration reform, which is sent directly to Congress. Participants can share their stories on Facebook and Twitter using the hashtag #ReasonForReform.
Videos collected through "Reason For Reform" will also be presented in a future interactive project with data at the state and district level and written testimonies.
"Members of Congress, journalists and elected officials may use the project to find many personal reasons and important data for immigration reform in the 435 districts in the U.S. Congress," the organization said.
For more information visit www.renewoureconomy.org.