Today, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC), led by Congressman Raul Ruiz, M.D. (D-CA), and the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee (JEC), led by Congressman Don Beyer (D-VA), released a new report that explores why immigrants are vital to the U.S. economy—both now (i.e. economic recovery) and in the future (i.e. economic growth)—despite being among the hardest hit by the health and economic effects of the coronavirus.
Immigrants are vital to the economic recovery because of their attachment to the labor force and spending power. In addition to being overrepresented in agriculture, health care and other essential industries, immigrants who lost their jobs in the COVID recession are returning to work at a faster rate than their native-born counterparts. As their employment rate increases, so does their spending power, which totals $1.3 trillion, according to a 2019 analysis of American Community Survey data by the New American Economy.
Because of their entrepreneurship, immigrants are also vital to a future of sustained economic growth. Immigrants create 1 in 4 new businesses in the U.S. and currently employ close to 8 million American workers across the nation. Immigrants and the children of immigrants have started almost half of all Fortune 500 companies.
Congressman Dr. Ruiz, CHC Chair:
“Immigrants are a critical part of our country’s infrastructure and disproportionally serve in frontline jobs that help feed us and keep us safe during the pandemic. The report by the Joint Economic Committee under the leadership of Chairman Don Beyer shows how immigrants are key drivers of economic growth and affirms just how vital immigrants are to the economy. In addition to contributing to our society by keeping programs like Medicare and Social Security solvent and generating economic growth and productivity, immigrants create jobs and work in every sector of our workforce. As we pursue an equitable recovery, we cannot leave behind the immigrant communities that have helped sustain our country during the pandemic. Supporting immigrant communities means supporting economic growth and productivity for our nation.”
Congressman Beyer, JEC Chairman:
“It is not enough for us to recover from the health and economic effects of the coronavirus, we must fully recover and that means leaving no community behind—immigrants included, who are diverse in terms of country of origin, race and ethnicity, education and occupation. As a result of their work ethic, entrepreneurial spirit and spending power, immigrants play a vital role in making the United States one of the most prosperous nations in the world. Therefore, when it comes to relief and recovery efforts, we must support immigrants like they have supported the nation—our economic recovery and future economic growth depend on it.”
Congressman Joaquin Castro (D-TX), former CHC Chair:
“Latino essential workers and their communities were the human backbone of America’s economy and critical infrastructure during the COVID-19 pandemic and will be just as essential to our nation’s recovery. This report underlines the need to make concrete investments in the Latino communities, which are the engine of America’s economic growth, and makes clear the benefits of immigration reform for all Americans. For too long, Latinos have been left out of the promise of America’s prosperity while working many of the hard, too often invisible jobs that keep America running. We must expand the infrastructure of opportunity to fully include Latinos in the American Dream and create a pathway to citizenship for the undocumented essential workers who were unsung heroes of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Congresswoman Linda T. Sánchez (D-CA):
“Immigrant workers in this country teach in our classrooms, care for the sick in our hospitals, and put food on our tables. They contribute to our communities and have long powered our nation’s economic growth and stability. But this became even more evident during the COVID-19 pandemic. Immigrants held most of the essential jobs that kept us afloat over the last year and suffered higher rates of infection and death at the same time. It is time that our laws honor the contributions of immigrant workers and ensure no one is left behind as we recover. Protecting immigrant workers means expediting economic recovery, increasing economic growth, and creating a better economy for all Americans.”
Historically, employment rates for foreign-born workers rebound more quickly from recessions. In the Great Recession, foreign-born workers were hard hit—losing over a million jobs. However, within a year, foreign-born worker employment returned to pre-recession levels relative to native-born workers.
Similarly, during the recovery from the current recession, the employment rates for foreign-born workers have bounced back quickly. From February 2020 to April 2020, the number of employed foreign-born workers dropped from about 28 million to 22 million. The level recovered to approximately 26 million one year later, in February 2021.