At a time when immigrants in the United States are demonized as parasites and invaders by President Donald Trump and his fawning sycophants in the Florida Republican Party, it's more unlikely than ever that a boring economic analysis of the benefits of immigration will actually change anyone's mind in the White House or the state capitol.
In Miami, however, where nonnative residents make up more than 40 percent of the population, immigration plays an integral role in society, politics, and the local economy. A new report from New American Economy, a bipartisan, pro-immigration group, offers a clear picture of the economic impact of immigrants in Miami. In 2017, local immigrants paid roughly $16.1 billion in taxes — $4.4 billion in state and local taxes on top of $11.7 in federal taxes. That's more than 23 percent of the $68.2 billion in 2017 household income earned by immigrants in the Miami area, as estimated by the report's authors.
Miami's ever-growing housing market has also benefited from immigrants, about 540,000 of whom were homeowners as of 2017, according to the report. That's an increase of more than 17,000 from the previous year. Meanwhile, the construction industry supporting the area's development boom is entirely dependent on immigrant laborers, who make up more than 60 percent of construction workers. And it's not just construction — immigrants in Miami composed more than 70 percent of agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting workers in 2017 and nearly 60 percent of manufacturing workers.
Not only are immigrants less likely to commit crimes than native-born Americans, but also they're likelier to start businesses. In 2017, Miami was home to more than 240,000 immigrant entrepreneurs. The report's authors estimate Miami immigrants are more than 35 percent likelier to start a new business than U.S.-born residents.
Positive as the new analysis may be, it's hardly news to immigration activists who have been touting these kinds of figures for years.
"We've seen reports like this time and again. I think these sort of reports used to help move the conversation on immigration forward politically, but not anymore," says Tomas Kennedy, political director of the Florida Immigrant Coalition. "With Trump, nativism has reached new heights. Republicans at the federal and state level continue to disrespect and legislate against immigrants."
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Kennedy uses as an example the battle over Florida Senate Bill 168, which forces localities to cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials when it comes to detaining immigrants.
"We were there with the American Business Immigration Coalition and representatives from the agriculture and tourism industries, making the case that this bill would be very hurtful to Florida's economy. It didn't matter," Kennedy says.
New American Economy — along with the American Business Immigration Coalition, a group of business leaders and bipartisan U.S. mayors — released a report in March showing that if 10 percent of Florida's undocumented immigrants were scared out of the state by SB 168, the state would lose more than $3.5 billion in gross domestic product and upward of $44 million in local and state taxes.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the controversial bill into law in June, but civil rights groups have already filed a legal challenge in federal court.