With 10 percent of residents– almost 533,000 people– the foreign-born population of Colorado represents $10.8 billion in spending power and $3.3 billion in state tax dollars. The numbers, according to a recent report from the New American Economy, represent the importance of immigrants as “critical contributors to Colorado’s economic success overall.”
The New American Economy is a group of political and business leaders from across the United States who support secure borders and a reduction in undocumented immigration. The group also supports the creation of a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who obey federal, state and local laws and who pay taxes and learn English. The coalition also advocates for a streamlined visa program that lets business hire foreign-born workers for hard-to-fill jobs.
“We have a thriving community and state because of their contributions,” Thamanna Vasan, an economic policy analyst with the Colorado Fiscal Institute, told the Denver Post. “There is a lot of misconception about the role that immigrants play in our economy.”
The role immigrants play in Colorado’s economy is also a top-of-mind issue for many lawmakers in the state. As President Trump moves forward with immigration reform, officials are weighing in with relevant facts and figures in an effort to steer immigration law away from doing economic harm.
In a letter to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary John Kelly, Sen. Michael Bennet addressed immigration from the standpoint of H-2B visas, which allow foreign-born workers to perform seasonal work and are widely used by ski resorts and landscaping companies. “These workers are vital to communities across Colorado, especially in our tourism and outdoor recreation industries,” the senator wrote. “Determining efficient ways to improve the visa program will benefit Colorado’s economy.”
- Chuey Medrano, the founder of Denver area company CoCal Landscape, echoes the sentiment. CoCal, which employs 127 workers year round, typically looks to hire another 160 employees during the spring and summer surge in business. While the company has boosted its minimum pay rate from $11 per hour to $14 per hour, Medrano says he still doesn’t have enough U.S.-born applicants to fill all the employee slots.
“The workers pay taxes, they pay rent, they buy food,” Medrano said. “They take physically intense jobs that local workers won’t even apply for. And when the peak landscaping season ends, they don’t claim unemployment benefits, but return home.”