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Colorado’s immigrants by the numbers: a cornerstone of the economy

Author: Dan Njegomir - June 13, 2017 - Updated: June 13, 2017

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iStock photo / AAraujo

Just in case you didn’t get enough of the immigration debate during Colorado’s 2017 legislative session, New American Economy thought you’d like some fodder for starting your own discussion on the subject in the off season.

The business-backed, pro-immigration advocacy group started in 2010 by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and major CEOs — love ’em or not — has become a repository of facts and figures about the role immigrants play in the U.S. economy. (Whether the immigrants are documented or otherwise.)

The group sends the media regular updates. The latest arrived over the transom this week, announcing, “We’ve now mapped the impact of immigration in over 100 of the largest metropolitan areas in the United States,” and it invites you to click on a button and get relevant economic data for immigrants in a selected city or state.

How does Colorado stack up?

Colorado is home to some of the nation’s fastest-growing cities. From 2013 to 2014, Greeley and Fort Collins ranked among the top 20 fastest-growing metropolitan areas in the country. Foreign-born residents moving to the state have been a critical driver of that population growth. By 2014, more than half a million immigrants were living in the state. These new Americans serve as everything from technology entrepreneurs to farm laborers, making them critical contributors to Colorado’s economic success overall.

Some specifics:

  • Colorado has 532,903 foreign-born residents, or 10 percent of the state’s population.
  • These immigrants paid $3.3 billion in total taxes in 2014, the latest year for which data is available. $1.1 billion of that was state and local taxes.
  • Immigrants pumped $10.8 billion into the economy that year.
  • There were 32,115 immigrant entrepreneurs who owned businesses.

There’s also a section on undocumented immigrants, who, according to New American Economy, comprise 189,130 of Colorado’s immigrants and paid $313.7 million in total taxes. The section includes this commentary:

The United States is currently home to an estimated 11.4 million undocumented immigrants, the vast majority of whom have lived in the country for more than five years. The presence of so many undocumented immigrants for such a long time presents many legal and political challenges. But while politicians continue to debate what to do about illegal immigration without any resolution, millions of undocumented immigrants are actively working across the country, and collectively, these immigrants have a large impact on the U.S. economy. This is true in Colorado, where undocumented immigrants contribute hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes each year.

There’s more data, too, including a breakdown of Colorado’s immigrant population by economic sector — from agriculture to science, technology, engineering and math.

However you choose to interpret the data — and wherever you come down on immigration policy — there’s plenty of information here to serve as a conversation starter. Maybe even enough to keep you busy until the official face-off begins again in the General Assembly next January.

Dan Njegomir

Dan Njegomir

Dan Njegomir is a blogger and opinion editor for Colorado Politics. A longtime journalist and more-than-25-year veteran of the Colorado political scene, Njegomir has been an award-winning newspaper reporter, an editorial page editor, a senior legislative staffer at the State Capitol and a political consultant.


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