'Work ethic, entrepreneurial spirit': Immigrants will be vital to economic recovery, report says


A new report from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) and Joint Economic Committee (JEC) continues to shine a light not only on how immigrants and their entrepreneurial spirit have been key drivers in our economy but how they’ll also play critical roles in the nation's economic recovery amid the novel coronavirus pandemic. 

“Because of their entrepreneurship, immigrants are also vital to a future of sustained economic growth,” the groups said in a statement. “Immigrants create 1 in 4 new businesses in the U.S. and currently employ close to 8 million American workers across the nation.” While they were “hit hard by the coronavirus recession,” as entrepreneurs, immigrant communities are “uniquely positioned to drive the economic recovery.”

“Despite being hit hard by the recent economic contraction, immigrants were quick to lead the recovery effort by returning to the labor force. With their return to the labor force and their spending power, immigrants are helping drive the economic recovery for all Americans.” The report said that “[h]istorically, immigrants’ employment rates rebound more quickly from recessions, making them integral to a speedy recovery as their earnings fuel spending and further growth.”

“In the Great Recession, foreign-born workers were hard hit—losing over a million jobs,” findings noted. “However, within a year, foreign-born worker employment returned to pre-recession levels relative to native-born workers.”

The report notes the outsized role immigrants, regardless of status, have played amid the pandemic—and the outsized harm they have endured. “A higher share (69 percent) of all immigrants, and undocumented immigrants (74 percent), are in the essential work categories compared to native-born workers (65 percent). As a result, they may have been more likely to contract and die from COVID than native-born Americans.”

“Immigrants held most of the essential jobs that kept us afloat over the last year and suffered higher rates of infection and death at the same time,” California Rep. Linda Sánchez said. “For too long, Latinos have been left out of the promise of America’s prosperity while working many of the hard, too often invisible jobs that keep America running,” Rep. Joaquin Castro said in the statement. “We must expand the infrastructure of opportunity to fully include Latinos in the American Dream and create a pathway to citizenship for the undocumented essential workers who were unsung heroes of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Dozens of economists in February added their names to a letter calling on the Biden administration to protect undocumented immigrants as part of its recovery plan. “The COVID-19 pandemic has made plain how our public health and economic fates are inextricably tied together, and how harmful shortcomings in one part of our economy affect us all,” the letter said. Earlier this month, bicameral legislators called on the administration to prioritize citizenship for undocumented essential workers in its upcoming infrastructure package. “A path to citizenship for essential workers is a critical part of building our economy back better,” they noted in the letter.

“These immigrant essential workers have more than earned a pathway to citizenship,” they continued. “In fact, a bipartisan majority of Americans agree that a path to citizenship for essential workers is the right thing to do. Essential workers are American heroes—and they have earned the right to become American citizens. They have stepped up for America. It’s time for us to step up for them.”

“It is not enough for us to recover from the health and economic effects of the coronavirus, we must fully recover and that means leaving no community behind—immigrants included, who are diverse in terms of country of origin, race and ethnicity, education, and occupation,” Sánchez continued. “As a result of their work ethic, entrepreneurial spirit, and spending power, immigrants play a vital role in making the United States one of the most prosperous nations in the world. Therefore, when it comes to relief and recovery efforts, we must support immigrants like they have supported the nation—our economic recovery and future economic growth depend on it.”

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