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VOL. 133 | NO. 39 | Thursday, February 22, 2018

Immigrant Impact

Financial influence on Memphis economy significant, study shows

By Patrick Lantrip

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Immigrant households in Memphis contributed more than $4.2 billion to Memphis’ gross domestic product in 2015 and the immigrant population is growing at a faster rate than the overall population in Memphis, a new study has found.

Latino Memphis and the New American Economy Research Fund released the new report Tuesday, Feb. 20, to quantify for city leaders and others the financial contributions of immigrant households in the city.

The report, titled “New Americans in Memphis: A Snapshot of the Demographic and Economic Contributions of Immigrants in the Metro Area,” showed that while immigrant households made up only 5.2 percent of the population in 2015, they contributed more than $4.2 billion to Memphis GDP, or roughly 6 percent of that total.

Mauricio Calvo, left, and Yancy Villa-Calvo speak in the Hall of Mayors at City Hall during the first report of economic contributions in Memphis presented by Latino Memphis and New American Economy. (Daily News/Houston Cofield)

“I think that today, more than ever, facts matter,” Latino Memphis executive director Mauricio Calvo said at a reception held for the report in the Hall of Mayors. “And this report sheds light on the contributions of new and aspiring Americans.”

Immigrant households earned $1.6 billion in 2015, of which $372.1 million went to federal taxes and $109.7 went to state and local taxes. This also resulted in a contribution of $191 million to Social Security and $46.9 million to Medicare.

“They contributed to programs such as Social Security despite the fact that many immigrants will never be able to claim any benefits to these contributions,” Calvo said.

The report found that of the 69,787 immigrants living in Memphis, 33.3 percent came from Mexico, 9.7 percent from India, 6 percent from China, 5 percent from Honduras and 4.7 percent from Vietnam.

This represents a 2.7 percent increase in immigrant population from 2010 to 2015, which outpaces the metro area’s total population increase of 2.2 percent during the same time frame.

“It is important (for Memphis) to consider immigrants, refugees and the generations that will follow those as part of our smart growth strategy,” Calvo said.

The report estimated that immigrants helped create or preserve more than 3,210 manufacturing jobs that would have otherwise vanished or moved elsewhere by 2015.

The new report also shows entrepreneurship rates ran particularly high among Memphis’ immigrant population, as they made up nearly 9 percent of all local entrepreneurs, despite accounting for just a little more than 5 percent of the population, making immigrants 27 percent more likely to start their own business than their U.S.-born counterparts.

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland, Memphis Police Director Michael Rallings and Memphis Fire Department Director Gina Sweat attended the reception, which also served as an exhibition for the art installation, “Barrier Free” by Calvo’s wife, Yancy Villa-Calvo.

Local artist and DACA recipient Roberto “Boro” Alfaro closed the reception by reading his poem “Dreamers” that he wrote following Trump’s plan to end the DACA program. (Daily News/Houston Cofield)

“Barrier Free reverses the idea of the U.S.-Mexico border proposal,” Villa-Calvo said. “But it’s not only about immigration – I’m talking about everything that is separating families.”

Local artist and DACA recipient Roberto “Boro” Alfaro closed the reception with an emotional spoken-word performance, reading his poem “Dreamers,” which he wrote in the wake of Trump’s plan to end the DACA program.

“We hear so often, ‘These people are taking our jobs away and not contributing to the economy, they are a liability,’” Calvo said. “I think this is counter with facts.”

RECORD TOTALS DAY WEEK YEAR
PROPERTY SALES 32 176 2,507
MORTGAGES 26 101 1,687
FORECLOSURE NOTICES 10 37 259
BUILDING PERMITS 0 365 5,497
BANKRUPTCIES 16 57 963
BUSINESS LICENSES 0 107 488
UTILITY CONNECTIONS 0 0 0
MARRIAGE LICENSES 0 0 0