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. Our communities are strongest when everyone who lives in them feels welcome. In the spirit of inclusion in which our country was founded, we should continue to welcome newcomers and oppose measures that isolate or scapegoat immigrants.

Click below to read more about how immigrants strengthen Pennsylvania:

Immigrants Strengthen Our Economy

New job growth, new businesses and purchasing power: Immigrants are a critical component of Pennsylvania’s labor force and business community. Immigrants comprised 7.1% of the state workforce in 2011. Latinos and Asians wield $26.4 billion in consumer purchasing power, own businesses with sales and receipts of $14.8 billion and employ more than 73,000 people. In 2010, Pennsylvania immigrants were more than 50 percent more likely to own a business than the overall state average.

Filling the gap created by an aging workforce and urban population loss: Without immigrants, Pennsylvania’s population would have declined between 2000 and 2013. Pennsylvania ranks fourth among all states in the percentage of people 65 and older and immigration is necessary to help fill the labor force gap created by baby boomers’ retirement. Immigration to cities like Philadelphia has played a key role in turning around population decline.

Paying taxes: Immigrants pay more in taxes than they receive in benefits. Undocumented immigrants paid $135 million in Pennsylvania state and local taxes in 2010 and undocumented immigrants contribute approximately $8.5 billion in Social Security and Medicare funds each year . Many states have found that immigrants have a positive net fiscal impact on their state budgets.

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

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.