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New Study Examines The Economic Impact Of Immigrants In Arizona

Immigrants in Arizona paid about $1.7 billion in state and local taxes and had about $16 billion in spending power in 2014. Those are the latest numbers from a report released by the New American Economy.

The report, done for the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, shows that migrants represent a large share of the people in lower-wage jobs, including 32 percent of janitors and 55 percent of people working as housekeeping cleaners.

The data also shows that immigrants are not just concentrated in lower-wage jobs — 22 percent of entrepreneurs in Arizona are immigrants, with immigrant-owned businesses generating $1.3 billion in business income in 2014.

Foreign-born workers in Arizona also hold 17.3 percent of jobs in STEM fields, despite representing only 13.7 percent of the state population. The report estimated that if half of the 1,070 foreign students earning advanced STEM degrees on temporary visas stayed in the state after graduation, more than 1,400 new jobs for U.S.-born workers could be created by 2021.

Glenn Hamer, the president of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce said state industry, especially agriculture, is dependent on immigrants, both legal and otherwise.

"There's been a lot of cases of where farms have closed up shop in Arizona and other states. And they've gone to Mexico," added Hamer. "Who wins there? No one in the United States wins."

Officials with the local and national chambers of commerce deny that all the organizations want is cheap labor. They argued at a meeting Monday that they’d support a system that would provide some sort of legal status for migrant workers.