Immigrants in Illinois

Immigration ProtestOn a noticeable downturn over the last decade and a half or so, federal immigration policy has interfered with Illinois’ economic growth at the cost of hundreds of millions of dollars in economic activity and tens of thousands of new jobs, according to the New American Economy’s Map the Impact report. The economic correlation between immigration and both service and professional labor shortages means the state is looking for Washington action to expedite Immigration reform and to provide a legal path to citizenship, the report says.

Although home to around 1.8 million foreign-born residents, Illinois is no longer among the top seven states in the nation to attract immigrants, a status it held from the 1960’s through the late 1990’s. Accounting for14 percent of the state’s population, the immigrant growth rate for the first decade of the century was reported down at 16.8 percent.

Among the most extreme aspects of the economic impact is that “from 2009 to 2011 some 1.6 STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) jobs were posted online in Illinois for every unemployed STEM worker in the state,” according to Map the Impact. Specifically, STEM directly affects the state’s ability to remain innovative and to stay competitive. The shortage, which is currently expected to persist through 2030, even extends to medical professionals. If federal regulations were to address the visa complexities in this area, the “foreign STEM workers could help fill some of these gaps, as they have in other states,” the report says.

The sentiment also held by many of the state’s business and civic leaders. Last year at a community forum attended by academic, political and industry leadership, director of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce-Great Lakes Region Harry Alton commented on the state’s growth dependency on immigrants and the federal policy that diminish immigrant numbers. “It’s very difficult to keep a growing relationship with this group when the government tries to destroy their lives,” Alten said.