Immigrant Contributions

Pennsylvania should welcome Immigrants: Pennsylvania was built on immigrant contributions. From the early arrival of Pennsylvania “Dutch” to Italians, Irish, African, and Chinese, to more recent waves of Latin American, South and Southeast Asian, Eastern European, Korean, Arab, and African immigrants, most Pennsylvanian families were once new immigrants and newcomers continue to build the strength and prosperity of our state.

Click below to read more about how immigrants in Pennsylvania:

Immigrants Strengthen Our Economy

New job growth, job creation, and new businesses: Immigrants are a crucial part of the Pennsylvania workforce, comprising 6.3% of the state workforce in 2007. Ninety percent of the new job growth in 1996-2000 in 16 states, including PA, was due to immigrants. Latinos and Asians wield $22.6 billion in consumer purchasing power, own businesses with sales and receipts of $8.2 billion and employed nearly 53,000 people.

Filling the gap created by an aging workforce and urban population loss: Immigration is necessary to help fill the labor force gap created by baby boomers retirement. This is of particular importance in Pennsylvania, which ranks third among all states in the percentage of people 65 and older. Immigration to cities like Philadelphia is essential to reverse the painful effects of the city's population loss during the 1990's.

Immigrants feed Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania’s $4 billion agriculture and food production industry is key to the state remaining competitive in the global economy. Leaders in PA’s agribusiness sector have testified to the need for immigrant labor to supplement waning domestic interest in farming jobs and sustain expansion of this sector. Immigrant labor fills this gap.

Paying taxes: Immigrant workers pay income taxes, sales taxes, and real estate taxes. In 2004, undocumented workers and their employers contributed $7 billion to Social Security and $1.5 billion to Medicare through payroll tax deductions. Immigrants pay more in taxes than they receive in benefits. Many states have found that immigrants have a positive net fiscal impact on their state budgets.

Bringing the world to PA brings PA to the world: In the era of globalization, immigrant labor, language proficiency, and cultural knowledge make immigrants vital to Pennsylvania’s force in the global marketplace, attracting international businesses, students and tourism to Pennsylvania.

Immigrants Seek Integration and Civic Participation

Naturalizing: In spite of USCIS backlogs and stringent eligibility requirements for naturalization, the proportion of all legal immigrants who have become naturalized U.S. citizens rose to 50.8% by 2007, the highest level in a quarter of a century. Mexico was the leading country of birth of persons naturalizing in 2008, and one out five new U.S. citizens was from Mexico.

Voting: In 2006, New Americans (those who are either naturalized Americans or post-1965 children of immigrants) accounted for 5.2% of all registered voters. Between the 1996 and the 2004 elections, the number of New Americans registered to vote increased nearly 60 percent. The Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition has registered over 10,000 new citizens to vote and continues to register approximately 100 new citizens to vote each week.

Civic participation: The long American tradition of immigrant civic participation continues, as immigrants build human, social, institutional, and community capital through engagement in voter registration efforts, youth and labor organizing, arts-based community development, and faith communities.

Education: 36.7% of Pennsylvania’s foreign-born population age 25 and older have at least a bachelor’s degree in 2007, compared to 25.1% of native-born persons age 25 and older.

Learning English: The demand for ESL classes has been growing each year, resulting in reports of shortages of available programs and long waiting lists in many parts of the country. Children of immigrants also overwhelmingly favor using English over their parents' native language.

Immigrants Defend Our Country

Serving in the Armed Forces: According to data from the Department of Defense, more than 65,000 immigrants (non-US citizens and naturalized citizens) were serving on active duty in the US Armed Forces as of February 2008. Soldiers of Hispanic origin accounted for 10.5 percent of the 1,361,458 men and women serving in the armed forces as of Feb. 2008.

Veterans: In 2007, there were about 645,000 foreign-born veterans of the U.S. armed forces - nearly 3% of all surviving veterans. Latin America was the birthplace of a third of foreign-born U.S. veterans. Asia was the birthplace of a quarter of foreign-born U.S. veterans.

Immigrants Strengthen Families and Communities

Two-parent households: Children of immigrants are more likely to live with both parents. The percentage of immigrant children living in single parent households is only about 16% compared to 26% for children born in the United States.

Immigrants Make Communities Safer: Recent immigrants to the United States overall tend to have lower crime rates than the native-born, or even previous waves of immigrants. A 2008 report from the conservative Americas Majority Foundation reveals that crime rates are lowest in states with the highest immigration growth rates.

Immigrant families are also citizen families: Approximately three of every four children living with an undocumented parent are US citizens. Laws that criminalize, deport, deny housing or assistance to these parents have a dramatic impact upon the entire family, including 4 million U.S. citizen children.

Immigrants Contribute to Culture, Arts, and Sciences

Teaching and sharing arts and culture: Performing in festivals, staging events and exhibitions, and generating revenue from tourists and arts patrons, immigrant artists contribute to the artistic and cultural diversity and quality of life of Pennsylvania and have earned some of the nation's most significant arts awards (NEA Heritage Fellowships, Pew Fellowships in the Arts).

Research and innovation: More than a third of American Nobel laureates in the sciences over the last 15 years came to the US as immigrants. These scientists are conducting research with extraordinary promise for improving lives, as well as great potential to produce commercialized therapies and technologies that drive U.S. innovation and economic growth.

U.S. Chamber of Commerce. 2008. Report. Immigration Myths & the Facts Behind the Fallacies.
U.S. Census Bureau, Asian-Owned Firms: 2002, August 2006. 16 U.S. Census Bureau and Hispanic-Owned Firms: 2002, August 2006.
PA State Data Center. 2006. Research Brief. “2005 Detailed Population Estimates Released: Pennsylvania’s Hispanic Population Passes 500,000.” Penn State Institute for State and Regional Affairs. August 8.
American Immigration Law Foundation Public Education Program. 2002. “Making a Difference in America: Immigrants Continue to Benefit Our Nation.” Immigration Policy Focus, 1:1, Spring.
Howells, M. 2007. “Senate Agriculture & Rural Affairs.” PLS Committee News, Pennsylvania Legislative Services, Oct. 23.
U.S. Chamber of Commerce. 2008. Report. Immigration Myths & the Facts Behind the Fallacies.
Passel, J. 2007. Report. Growing Share of Immigrants Choosing Naturalization. Pew Hispanic Center, March.
National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund. 2009. Press Release. "Latinos Pursuing Dream of U.S. Citizenship Help Set Naturalization Record in 2008." April 6.
Paral, R. & Associates. 2008. The New American Electorate: The Growing Political Power of Immigrants and Their Children. Immigration Policy Center.
McGarvey, C. 2004. "Pursuing Democracy's Promise: Newcomer Civic Participation in America." Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees.
American Immigration Law Foundation Public Education Program. 2002. “Making a Difference in America: Immigrants Continue to Benefit Our Nation.” Immigration Policy Focus, 1:1, Spring.
Batavlova, J. 2008. "Immigrants in the U.S. Armed Forces." Migration Information Source of the Migration Policy Institute, May. (
Migration Policy Institute. 2008. "Immigration Facts: Foreign-Born Veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces." No. 22, October
U.S. Chamber of Commerce. 2008. Report. Immigration Myths & the Facts Behind the Fallacies.
Nadler, R. 2008. Report. Immigration and the Wealth of States. Americas Majority Foundation, Overland Park, KS. January (p. 9).
Passel, J. S., and Cohn, D. 2009. “A Portrait of Unauthorized Immigrants in the United States.” Pew Hispanic Center, April 14.
Schramm, C. & Litan, R. 2007. "Immigrants and Laureates: America's two other winners of Nobel prizes show how important it is that the U.S.get immigration policy right." The Washington Post, October 12.