States and cities nationwide are discovering they can strengthen their local economies and boost tax revenues by encouraging immigrants legally in the country on a permanent basis to become citizens. About 9 million people nationwide live in the country as lawful permanent residents and are eligible to become naturalized citizens, including an estimated 195,000 in Georgia. But fewer than 10 percent each year complete the process to become citizens of the United States, in part because the process is lengthy, complex and costly. A concerted effort by Georgia lawmakers and community leaders to encourage lawful permanent residents to become citizens and smooth their path could add up to $639 million in annual earnings to the state’s economy and as much as $62 million a year in state and local tax revenue.
One in five Georgia children lives with at least one immigrant parent and nearly half of immigrants in Georgia struggle to speak English. When parents struggle to speak English, it not only hurts their ability to bring home higher pay to support their families, it also limits their involvement in their children’s education. This reduces the likelihood their children will succeed in school and one day reach their potential in the workforce.
More than 509,000 Georgia children have immigrant parents and 45 percent of immigrants in Georgia don’t speak English well. Yet Georgia’s English language programs enrolled only about 12,000 adults in 2016. Georgia is also one of just two states that ban undocumented immigrants from basic literacy and other adult education programs. This ban hurts children, including U.S. citizens, by making English language education inaccessible for their parents.
It is in the best interest of the state for lawmakers to improve the educational opportunities for immigrants because Georgia is likely to continue to diversify and attract newcomers from many different countries. The country’s immigrant population is projected to increase at double the rate of the U.S.-born population over the next five years. Georgia’s workforce will likely add more immigrants as the state continues to capture a large share of the nation’s population growth. Putting up unusual roadblocks to literacy and training programs and underfunding English language education undermines Georgia’s future workforce and its ability to compete.
Virginia’s immigrants are diverse, growing in number, and are major contributors to our state’s economy. Immigrants in Virginia today are more educated, higher earning, naturalizing at faster rates and living in more communities throughout the state than in recent generations.
Undocumented Oregonians pay taxes. The millions in taxes they pay to help fund schools and other public services that strengthen Oregon’s economy.
Oregon would collect even more tax revenue under comprehensive immigration reform that would open a path to citizenship for undocumented workers. Under such a scenario, these immigrant Oregonians and aspiring citizens would contribute so much more in state and local taxes that their tax payments as a share of their income would exceed the share paid by Oregon’s wealthiest 1 percent.