Immigrants are increasingly important to North Carolina’s long-term economic vitality. The smokescreen of rhetoric surrounding immigration can obscure facts on the ground, but that makes it all the more important to take a sober look at the actual evidence. As documented in a recent Budget & Tax Center report, immigrants bring needed skills and expertise, swell the ranks of Main Street entrepreneurs, help to reverse population decline in many rural parts of the state, and ultimately improve our communities.
Comparing North Carolina counties with sizable immigrant populations to counties that have relatively new residents who were born outside of the United States provides perhaps the most compelling evidence that immigrants help communities to prosper. As shown in the table to the left, counties made up of more than 6% immigrants fare significantly better than counties where the immigrant population is less than 3%.
By allowing hard fact to scrub the political air, it is clear that immigrants help communities across North Carolina to prosper. On average, communities with substantial immigrant populations have lower unemployment rates and levels of poverty, and higher wages than communities with few immigrants. This trend also holds when you look at rural counties, evidence that immigrants help communities large and small.
This kind of evidence has more and more communities across the country extending a helping hand to immigrants. Cities like St. Louis, Detroit, and Charlotte, just to name a few, recognize that immigrants will play a huge role in their economic prospects going forward. Immigrants have always been part of America’s economic foundation. Our future economic vitality will depend on how well we build upon that legacy.
House Bill 328, sponsored by Representative Harry Warren (Republican, Rowan County) was recommended by the House Finance Committee earlier this week on a 22-11 vote. The bill would allow undocumented immigrants who pass a criminal background check to receive a temporary driver’s license in North Carolina. The bill received bi-partisan support, but has an uncertain future. It is not clear when, or if, the bill will be debated by the full House. Governor McCrory has said that he opposes the bill and it is unclear how it would be received in the Senate. Still, the Finance vote is the second favorable vote in a House committee and the bill has support from a variety of constituencies.
For more on the Finance Committee vote, visit