Last month, in the midst of an emergency shelter crisis, Democratic Governor Maura Healey of Massachusetts warned migrants looking to move to the state that it has run out of room for them.
The message is clear: Migrants are not wanted here now.
On Wednesday, the state Legislature failed to reach a deal that would have approved Healey’s request for extra funding for emergency housing for newly arrived migrant families. There were disagreements among lawmakers over how to spend the funds, including whether the Hynes Convention Center could be used as a site to temporarily house migrants.
But lost in the debate is that, collectively, these migrant families will go on to become significant economic contributors if they’re allowed to stay and integrate. To be sure, that’s a big if. What’s undeniable is that immigrants create business at a greater rate than US citizens and add immensely to the economy.
Call it simple immigration math. Indeed, a new analysis and an interactive data map illustrate the contributions of immigrants to the United States.
On Monday, the nonprofit advocacy group American Immigration Council released 2021 figures on the tax contributions of immigrants, their participation in the workforce, home ownership data, and other metrics.
For instance, 1 in 8 individuals living in the United States is an immigrant, or 45.3 million people. While the immigrant population grew by nearly 4 percent between 2016 and 2021, the increase accounted for roughly 18 percent of the total population growth in the country in the same period. In 2021, immigrants paid more than $500 billion dollars in taxes. Included in that group are undocumented immigrants, who paid more than $30 billion in taxes in 2021.
The analysis also included a state-by-state snapshot of the immigrant population. In Massachusetts, immigrants represent nearly 18 percent of the overall population. Yet 1 in 4 entrepreneurs in the state are immigrants, which is higher than the national share of roughly 20 percent. As a group, immigrants have a spending power of nearly $50 billion and paid $17 billion in taxes in the Commonwealth.
In terms of the state workforce, nearly 29 percent of all STEM workers are foreign-born. They are also overrepresented in certain health care occupations: For instance, roughly 37 percent of home health care aides are immigrants.
The analysis also includes a count of the immigrant population here illegally. There are about 140,000 undocumented individuals (or about 11 percent of the immigrant population) in Massachusetts. They collectively pay $730 million in taxes.
As the Legislature continues its debate on the extra $250 million that Healey requested to deal with the shelter crisis, and Healey considers whether to keep a limit on the number of families offered emergency shelter, the data showing the impressive level of economic impact from immigrants in Massachusetts shouldn’t be ignored.
Correction: An earlier version of this column mischaracterized the amount of taxes paid by all immigrants in the United States in 2021. It’s more than $500 billion.