By Veronica Carter
Immigrants play a key role in Indiana's economy, according to a report by the Partnership for a New American Economy.
The report shows Indiana's immigrant population earned just over $8 billion in 2014.
Betsy Cohen, executive director of the Mosaic Project, part of the Welcoming Economies (WE) Global Network, says people come to the U.S. to live the American Dream. They own businesses, buy houses and enroll their children in public schools. And many launch those dreams as students at Indiana's colleges and universities.
"Indiana, 25,000," she points out. "Illinois, 38,000. The international students and people that come to work in the higher ed industry are part of the brainpower, which is why we have a high number of STEM graduates. And these are really important graduates for the region, so we need to hold on to them."
The WE Global Network
is a 10-state economic development partnership focused on helping immigrant families succeed.
The Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce, Indiana Farm Bureau and Indiana Builders Association have been calling for federal immigration reform, saying industries, to include farming, already face worker shortages.
Cohen says diversification improves the economy in other ways.
"We need to have a younger workforce and you need to have dynamic people that are going to help, you know, build the population," she stresses. "We know that millennials and a lot of the entrepreneurial community thrive on diverse ethnic groups."
Cohen adds immigrants are more likely to own their own businesses, which is another economic driver.
"In Missouri and Illinois, and in Indiana, when you look across the region, that entrepreneurship is higher, because many foreign-born people are precluded, potentially, from careers that they had in other countries," she points out. "And they need to have a direct way that they'll support their family in the communities."
In Indiana, 5 percent of residents, or about 323,000 people, are born abroad. Across the country, the average by state is around 13 percent.