After the Senate passed the immigration reform bill on June 27, 2013, Coloradans may be reflecting on the specific impact it will have on our state. The reality is that foreign-born Coloradans are already altering the state’s population, economy, and electorate. They currently account for almost 10 percent of our population, or about 500,000 people. About 180,000 of those immigrants are undocumented.
These immigrants and their families are already having a huge impact on Colorado’s economy. The purchasing power of Colorado’s Asian and Latino population totaled about $28 billion in 2012. In 2007, the businesses they owned had sales and receipts of over $10 billion and employed over 51,000 people in our state. Undocumented immigrants bring $8 billion of economic activity to the state every year and create about 40,000 jobs. Undocumented immigrations also paid about $167.5 million in state, property, and sales taxes in 2010.
Immigrants are also altering the nature of Colorado’s electorate. Six percent of voters in Colorado are foreign born naturalized U.S. citizens or the children of these immigrants. Just over a third of naturalized immigrants have a bachelor’s degree or higher.
Whether immigration reform will change the above statistics depends on the final version of the bill that passes both in the Senate and the House, an uncertain outcome at this point. What is certain is that Colorado is currently benefiting from the diversity and economic activity that immigrants bring to the state. Potential legislation to bring our current undocumented population out of the shadows will likely boost our economy even more, as these immigrants will be able to become full participants in our society. Other proposed reforms to increase the number of U.S. educated immigrants who remain in the state will only augment the state’s brainpower and attract businesses that require an educated workforce.
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