13 States Where Businesses Thrive Thanks to Refugees
By Rebecca Ma, Associate Campaigner, Amnesty International USA
Welcoming refugees and immigrants is what made America great in the first place.
We can enjoy a slice of New York pizza thanks to the wave of Italian immigration at the turn of the 20th century, and dance to salsa music from Cubans who fled the island following the revolution there. The Sears Tower stands tall in the Chicago skyline because a Bangladeshi architect was granted a Fulbright scholarship to the United States. And the cultural contributions go so much deeper.
Immigrants and refugees not only shaped US history and culture but contribute to the US economy. You can see their great economic impact in US states that have welcomed some of the largest numbers of refugees since 2001:
· Arizona — 39,031 resettled: 84% of refugees resettled in Phoenix in 2016 were economically self-sufficient within six months — they started their own businesses, creating jobs in the process, and purchased homes.
· California — 102,614 resettled: Refugees invigorate US markets with a spending power totaling more than $17.2 billion.
· Colorado — 19,946 resettled: Refugees contributed $247.3 million in local, state and federal taxes.
· Florida — 46,553 resettled: Refugees have $1.9 billion in spending power, making them important drivers of growth and prosperity.
· Georgia — 35,328 resettled: Embracing diverse refugee communities in Atlanta enclaves such as Buford Highway and Clarkston helps revitalize local businesses, giving grocery stores with specially-tailored international aisles an edge over large chain supermarkets.
· Idaho — 11,901 resettled: In 2012, Chobani opened a plant in Twin Falls, where some 30% of the workers are refugees, and unemployment dropped from 7% to 3%.
· New York — 53,790 resettled: In 2002, one out of every seven houses in Utica were vacant. In the past decade, however, refugee homeowners bought many of these homes and have been credited with revitalizing whole blocks in the town. And after decades of decline and a loss of a third of its population when its factories closed, Utica is growing again thanks to refugees, who make up one out of every four citizens. [embed video]
· North Carolina — 29,903 resettled: Refugees gave back to their communities by paying a total of $273.6 million in federal, state and local taxes.
· Ohio — 30,697 resettled: The North Hill neighborhood in Akron used to be bleak with vacant storefronts, until Bhutanese and Burmese refugees invested in the area and turned it into a bustling outlet of food markets, clothing shops, and jewelry stores.
· Pennsylvania — 32,217 resettled: In 2015, refugees paid $30.6 million in state and local taxes, which is the amount the state spends on autism services each year.
· Tennessee — 17,738 resettled: In the last two decades, refugees in Tennessee contributed more than they consumed. Between 1990 and 2013, refugees paid $1.3 billion in tax revenues, which is almost twice as much as they consumed in state services.
· Texas — 81,765 resettled: Refugees have more than $4.6 billion in spending power to buy US products and services.
· Wisconsin — 13,636 resettled: Refugees who make up large percentages of the populations in small towns like Sheboygan and Wausau revitalize their economies by starting businesses and buying homes.
Refugees today, like many people who came here for centuries, are fleeing from violence and persecution. They left their homes with the dream of rebuilding their lives and the lives of their families, seeking the same safety and opportunities that anyone should be afforded, regardless of where they came from.