NEWS-SENTINEL EDITORIAL: Immigration has positive impact on area economy

Fort Wayne’s festival season, which began last weekend, includes a series of celebrations of immigration – Arab Fest, Germanfest, Greekfest – in which people in our community share the cultures, customs and cuisines of the countries from which they originated.

Our city has always been a melting pot of people who have settled here through the past two centuries. But we’ve never seen more diversity in our community than we do today, and a pair of studies by Ball State University and the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership highlight the growth and positive impact of our foreign-born citizens.

The study by Ball State’s Center for Business and Economic Research released last month found that a quarter of Indiana’s overall population growth from 2000 to 2015 was a result of immigration. It found that about a third of our immigrants are from Mexico, about 9 percent from India and about 8 percent from China.

Last year’s study by the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership discovered that whereas the population in the 11-county region that includes Allen County increased 2.2 percent from 2011 to 2016, the immigrant population increased more than 13 percent over the same period. The study found up to 4.5 percent of the population in Northeast Indiana is foreign-born. Those people also comprise more than 5 percent of our employed workforce, mostly in manufacturing and food service.

The Ball State study reports that those immigrants contribute to federal and state welfare and public service programs throughout the state. The Regional Partnership study added that foreign-born residents paid nearly $57 million in state and local taxes and more than $104 million in federal taxes in 2016.

Both studies show that immigrants are great contributors to our economy as well as to our community.

The reports underscore the need to push for comprehensive bipartisan immigration reform that properly balances border security with the economic benefits that immigrant workers can bring.

A Journal-Gazette story about the studies said that undocumented immigrants are included in the positive statistics regarding the impact of foreign-born contributions to our workforce and economy.

“Overall, we find that immigration, regardless of authorization status, is an important source of fiscal, economic and demographic health for Indiana’s future,” Ball State study co-author Emily Wornell said. “These newcomers will bolster the local job markets, fill up classrooms and become contributing members to our communities.”

And we would emphasize that the issue of border security, while necessary to prevent illegal immigration, is not so much about the influx of criminal activity.

A Washington Post story Sunday pointed out that studies have shown that immigrants generally commit crimes at a lower rate than native-born Americans and that new data show there is also no correlation between illegal immigrants and higher crime rates.

The new data comes from non-partisan studies by the Pew Research Center and the Marshall Project, showing that crime declined in a majority of 180 metropolitan areas in the decade that ended in 2016, as it has for more than 20 years throughout the U.S. generally, whether the number of undocumented migrants increased or decreased in a particular place.

We encourage our legislators in Washington to be discerning in efforts to control the borders as they should, while not discouraging the influx of documented immigrants who can make a significant impact on the growth of our population and the prosperity of our economy in areas that need them most.

The Ball State study may be accessed online athttps://projects.cberdata.org/161/immigration-in-the-hoosier-statewhile the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership study is available at https://assets.neindiana.com/resources/New_Americans_in_Fort_Wayne_and_Northeast_Indiana.pdf