Crafting public policy that effectively considers both the human impacts and economic considerations of immigration in Arizona has proven challenging.
Proposed solutions range from building a wall to blanket amnesty. The worst course of action is inaction – doing nothing. The answer – comprehensive immigration reform – addresses immigration issues with a multi-pronged approach.
These prongs include securing the border to stem the flow of illegal immigration; developing a simple, secure system for employers to verify employment eligibility; increasing opportunities for immigrants to enter the workforce and for foreign students to stay here; streamlining the process for seasonal workers and establishing a well-considered path to legal status for undocumented immigrants.
As the 11th largest immigrant population in the nation with more than 920,000 foreign-born residents, we’d be wise to heed the call of the Partnership for a New American Economy’s 50-state Reason for Reform campaign. The effort, which includes the solutions listed above, highlights the benefits of immigration to local communities while calling for comprehensive immigration reform. The group’s Arizona-centric report shows that leaving immigrants in limbo threatens the $1.7 billion in state and local taxes they pay and the 100,000+ jobs provided by immigrant-owned companies.
And that’s just the beginning.
During the next eight years, science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) field professions are projected to play a key role in U.S. economic growth, adding almost 800,000 new jobs and growing 37 percent faster than the U.S. economy. Immigrants play a huge part ensuring that Arizona remains a leading innovator in STEM fields. In fact, matching growing businesses with qualified workers – a top challenge for Arizona-based companies – is a key mission of Phoenix Forward, a collaborative economic development partnership.
Immigrants are also entrepreneurs who have played an important role in Arizona’s economic success story. The partnership’s study reveals that the more than 60,000 self-employed immigrants in Arizona represent 22 percent of all Arizona entrepreneurs.
Arizona-based technology distribution giant Avnet, a Fortune 500 company, was founded by Charles Avnet, a Russian immigrant. Freeport-McMoRan, another Fortune 500 firm based here, had one founder whose parents immigrated to America. Together, these two companies employ 54,000 people globally and bring in almost $50 billion in revenue each year.
While discussion of immigration will likely continue to elicit strong opinions from all, it is poor public policy to allow roadblocks to remain in front of those who contribute to our collective economic success now and in the future.
Todd Sanders is CEO of the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce.