Editorial: Immigration’s benefits often are overlooked

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The (Columbus) Republic

Often lost in the ongoing debate over immigration in the United States are the benefits that foreign-born workers bring with them.

This is truer now than in the past, because a declining birth rate among people born in the US means that without immigrants, populations nationally and in Bartholomew County would be falling. The Republic’s Andy East reported last week on some eye-opening facts about immigration locally and across the country.

“Just looking at the big picture, as the state’s population continues to age, as the Baby Boomer generation continues to age, we’re expecting to see labor force growth slow significantly over the next 10 to 20 years,” Matt Kinghorn, senior demographic analyst at the Indiana Business Research Center at the Indiana University Kelley School of Business, told East.

“… That’s not great news for our employers. As we move ahead, I think attracting young adults is going to play an increasingly important role for Indiana’s economy. And I think international migration will be a big piece of that puzzle.”

There are several reasons why that is so, but one is that there is an ongoing shortage of skilled labor, and H-1B visas allow companies to recruit talent globally to fill positions in engineering, technology, finance and other specified fields.

“A total of 24 employers with offices in Columbus received approvals for a collective 2,465 H-1B visas for highly skilled workers from … Oct. 1, 2020, to Sept. 30, 2023, according the U.S. Immigration and Citizen Services,” East wrote.

Columbus-based Cummins Inc. accounted for the vast majority of these — 2,135 — but other local employers that received visa approvals included LHP, Toyota Material Handling, Faurecia, LER TechForce, Dorel Juvenile Group, Columbus Regional Health and Grace Lutheran Church, among others.

“While half of the foreign-born population in the U.S. come from Latin America, nearly 60% of Bartholomew County’s foreign-born residents are from Asia, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates that were current as of 2022,” East wrote.

Foreign-born residents are driving population growth in Bartholomew County. Some 10% of all residents were born outside the US — one of the highest rates in Indiana — and those workers pay taxes, support local businesses and help our local employers remain competitive.

“In 2022, nearly 68% of foreign-born residents in the county had at least a bachelor’s degree, including 44% who had a graduate or professional degree, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. By comparison, about 30% of the county’s native-born population had at least a bachelor’s degree, with 10% having a graduate or professional degree.”

At the same time, median annual income for foreign-born women in Bartholomew County was $88,762 in 2022, while median annual income for foreign-born men was $88,312. By comparison, median annual income for a native-born men in Bartholomew County was $64,543 and $47,048 for native-born women.

People come to America because they want a better life with the freedom and liberties to achieve their full potential. In turn, immigrants benefit the life of our communities.

The bottom line is the United States is a nation of immigrants, and we need them now more than ever.

The (Columbus) Republic is a sister newspaper to the Daily Reporter.