(Page 2 of 2)
Nationally, states like Illinois, Maryland and New Jersey have been on the forefront of creating comprehensive immigrant integration agendas. Washington was on the right track when, in 2008, Governor Chris Gregoire established a New Americans Policy Council that worked for a year to provide a Year One report that contained a thoughtful set of recommendations. Unfortunately, in the midst of a push to eliminate a number of commissions, Gregoire did not continue the Council for a second year. The recommendations are collecting dust on office shelves somewhere.
Now, here we are in 2013, with a new Governor and a new State Legislature. Consider this a wake-up call. Here’s what the alarm bells are saying.
We’ve got a very substantial immigrant population that votes and helps drive Washington’s economy. Here are a few statistics:
- In 2010 alone, Asians and Latinos provided over $32 billion in purchasing power to our state.
- In 2007, immigrants paid 13 percent of all the taxes paid in the state, about $1.5 billion. In 2010, undocumented immigrants paid $327.7 million in state and local taxes.
- In 2010, over 16,000 foreign students contributed $412.1 million in tuition, fees and living expenses, subsidizing tuition for all of our kids.
If you’ve ever taken a cab or shopped at our ethnic groceries or stepped into a high-tech start-up, you’ve seen immigrant entrepreneurship in action. If you’ve eaten apples or cherries or tomatoes, you’ve benefited from immigrant labor. If you’ve enjoyed ethnic restaurants or the Festal cultural celebrations, you’ve relished our cultural diversity — which also helps our tourism industry.
So, yes, while the 2012 election might signal this is about politics and growing political power, it’s also about what’s good and necessary for Washington and every single one of us.
Governor Inslee and this new state legislature have a real opportunity to build our state’s future. It’s time to recognize and engage with this rapidly growing demographic of immigrant residents and voters in a new and powerful way. In the next part of this two-part article, I’ll get specific on the elements of a specific immigrant integration agenda for Washington.
In the meantime, I still live in Seattle’s south end and every time I see one of those 98118 stickers that signify our tremendous diversity, I am proud.
Like what you just read? Support high quality local journalism. Become a member of Crosscut today!