Texas ranks high in economic impact of undocumented workers

Undocumented residents in the Texas workforce have made a substantial impact on the economic success of the state, according to data from a new WalletHub study.

WalletHub, ranks Texas 12th out of the 50 states and Washington D.C. in economic impact from undocumented workers. Experts attribute Texas’ large immigration population for its global economic might. 

“There is no doubt that immigrants have a positive impact on our economy. The benefits they bring through the taxes they pay outweigh the costs they incur for school and healthcare, for example,” said Jill Gonzalez, an analyst at Wallethub. “Thus, closing borders and preventing immigrant workforce from coming in would surely have a negative impact on the economy.”

According to the study, nearly 22 percent of Texas workers are undocumented, which is one of the highest rates in the country. This high percentage of the workforce contributes to sales tax revenue and social security contributions, as well as to property tax revenue. 

Texas also ranks 20th in “brain game and innovation,” which accounts for contributions from undocumented residents with higher education and from foreign-born entrepreneurs. 

The Lone Star State ranks ninth for foreign-born STEM workers, with a share of 26.3 percent and 11th for the number of H1-B visas per capita, Gonzalez said. 

Austin-based immigration attorney Jason Finkelman, whose practice focuses on employment-based immigration law, said these studies come as no surprise. 

The growth of Hays and Travis counties have brought investments from a plethora of Fortune 500 companies, including Amazon, Google and Apple. 

And these employers are looking for the best talent they can find in STEM-based career paths in mathematics, science, engineering and computing. 

“We know, objectively, that universities in the United States are not pumping out enough students with STEM-related degrees, so international professionals are coming for those jobs,” Finkelman said. “Employers are relying drastically on these foreign nationals for employment and these are the people who are pushing the economy of Central Texas.” 

Despite economic advancements, controversy surrounds undocumented residents who are in the workforce.  

Although Finkelman sees this as a logical concern, he argued highly educated undocumented residents will drive competition for Texans, which can help keep Texans and foreign nationals employed in key positions. 

According to the study, 22 percent of Fortune 500 companies in Texas were founded by immigrants or their children. Additionally, 25 percent of new jobs in Texas during the study’s findings were created by the presence of international students. 

Gonzalez said Texas has the seventh highest share of foreign-born workforce in the country and ninth largest recent of immigrant-business owners at 18 percent. 

“At the end of the day, what has made this country strong, and what continues that trend, is relying on the best global talent,” Finkelman said. “We are a nation of immigrants and that’s just not going to change despite what (President Donald Trump’s) administration is trying to do.”

Finkelman said the U.S. has historically made it difficult for undocumented workers to seek employment, which could hinder competition in the future. 

That competition is what Finkelman believes will drive Americans to work harder and pursue degrees that reflect the workforce of tomorrow. 

“As long as the U.S. economy continues to develop, it will attract immigrants from all over the world,” Gonzalez said. ”The immigration laws and policies that will be enforced will have a powerful influence on the number of people who will come here to work or start a business.”

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