© 2024 St. Louis Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Report highlights immigrant contributions in U.S. by city, state and Congressional district

The International Institute in St. Louis helps immigrants to get settled, find housing and find jobs. Feb 2017
Marie Schwarz | St. Louis Public Radio
The International Institute in St. Louis helps immigrants get settled, find housing and find jobs.

The International Institute of St. Louis is highlighting a new report that delves into the numbers behind immigrants in the United States.

The national organization New American Economy released the report “Map the Impact” on Tuesday. The report breaks down not just the number of immigrants in each congressional district, metropolitan area and state, but also looks at what they provide in taxes, spending power, education and entrepreneurship.

Anna Crosslin, president and CEO of the International Institute, said the report is meant to dispel myths in a time when immigration is under huge scrutiny.

“People are very confused; they don’t have the facts,” Crosslin said. “There are a lot of rumors flying, and [New American Economy] wanted to crunch actual Census statistics and present the realities of the numbers mean, not just what we’re hearing.”

The report is based on the annual American Community Survey done by the U.S. Census Bureau. It shows that in the St. Louis metro area there are about 122,000 immigrant residents, who make up 4.4% of the total population. The report notes that of those immigrants, about 7,000 are entrepreneurs, making foreign-born residents 29% more likely to open their own business than native-born residents.

That’s one reason the St. Louis Mosaic Project is pushing hard to attract more immigrants to the region. The regional initiative’s executive director Betsy Cohen spoke at the International Institute event on Tuesday morning.

“Our goal is to attract more foreign-born to the region so we can have more economic prosperity, we can have social, cultural diversity and so that we can be a more prosperous, growing region,” Cohen said.

The report’s data also breaks down how many immigrants are eligible to vote in each congressional district. In the St. Louis metro area the report shows about 58,000 immigrants were eligible to vote in 2014, but Crosslin pointed out that not all are registered.

She says immigrants are already a powerful voting block in cities like New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, where a much larger percentage of the population is foreign-born. Still, even in St. Louis with just 4.4%, Crosslin said they can have an impact.

“Even though the numbers may appear small, the reality is that our elections are so close, so divided, in a city like St. Louis and many parts of the nation, those foreign-born can swing elections. Even though they’re small, they’re mighty," she said.

Yet, while St. Louis works to attract more immigrants, the number of refugees is likely to diminish, at least for now. Crosslin said when President Donald Trump signed his executive order on immigration, all 62 refugees booked to come to St. Louis had to be rebooked. While all have since arrived (along with 10 more refugees scheduled after the executive order), there are no new notices of arrival past Feb. 23. 

That means less funding coming to the International Institute from the national resettlement program.

"The wider St. Louis community been really generous in terms of donations and volunteer time. It obviously can't make up the difference, but it's been able to trim around the edges of what has been a real disaster for many, many people  — for a lot of people," Crosslin said.

Part of the slow-down is because Trump capped the number of refugees for 2017 at 50,000 after the Obama administration had set the number at 110,000. So far this year about 35,000 refugees have already made their way to the U.S. 

Crosslin said the smaller number is a "real tragedy" for families waiting to be reunited with loved ones.

Follow Maria on Twitter: @radioaltman

Maria is the newscast, business and education editor for St. Louis Public Radio.