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We are largely a nation of immigrants, and relatively recent ones at that. Waves of immigrants have come to the United States over the past several centuries, transforming the county from a colonial backwater to the wealthiest nation on the planet.  A report just out shows how important immigrant business owners are to communities across the country. As can be seen below, immigrants are over-represented as business owners, and it turns out they make up a particularly large share of main street proprietors.

Immigrant Percentage of Workforce and Business Ownership

The role that immigrants play as local business owners tends to be overshadowed in the policy debate surrounding immigration policy in the U.S.  Amidst the talk about border security, paths to citizenship, and human rights, we tend to overlook the fact that immigrants are vital to the economic backbone of the United States, small businesses. The Fiscal Policy Institute report shows that while immigrants make up 16% of the labor force, they own 28% of the main street businesses in the U.S. In many communities, immigrants make up a larger share of small businesses owners today than they did a decade ago, which is clearly shown in the graph below. Moreover, the report underscores how important immigrant businesses can be as early instruments of community revitalization, going into neighborhoods and communities when larger firms are still hesitant to invest.

Immigrant Business Ownership in Major Cities 2000 to 2013

Here are some of the other highlights from the report:

  • Immigrants are more important to metro small business communities than ten years ago. The report shows that the share of businesses owned by people born outside the United States has gone up in virtually every major metropolitan area in the country in the last 10-15 years. This includes both Charlotte and Raleigh, which saw marked jumps in immigrant small business ownership from 2000 to 2013.
  • Immigrants are particularly likely to own very small businesses. More than 80% of businesses owned by immigrants had ten or fewer employees, compared to just over 70% for native-born business owners. Many of these immigrant businesses are in main street service sectors, like laundries, barber shops, restaurants, groceries, and travel accommodation.
  • Immigrants are less likely to use a bank loan to start their businesses. Particularly on main street, native born business owners are more likely to get bank loans while immigrants are more likely to rely on personal savings. There are a host of reasons for this, but it is a point of concern. Access to capital is the lifeblood of small business, so if immigrants find it difficult to secure startup and operating capital, communities may lose businesses that are otherwise solid, or miss out of new businesses that never got off the ground.
  • Case studies in engaging immigrant business owners show the importance of public policies in supporting the success of these entrepreneurs. The report highlights economic revitalization efforts in Philadelphia, Minneapolis/St. Paul, and Nashville that focus on the needs of immigrant business owners.

When you take a sober look at the economic data, its clear that immigrants are essential to the economic well-being of the United States. Whatever you think about recent Executive actions, or what needs to be done about immigration policy generally, this is not an issue that we can afford to ignore. Immigrants have always been part of the U.S. economic history and, if we want to remain one of the most dynamic economic markets in the world, immigrants will be at the heart of those future stories as well.

Commentary

President Obama 4Today, Republicans in the U.S. House passed legislation that would reverse the immigration policies put in place by President Obama through executive action. The new legislation would terminate the temporary stay on deportation announced by Obama in November, a change that would have negative consequences for over six million immigrants. The legislation was voted on as an amendment to a Homeland Security funding bill.

A second amendment was also passed that would eliminate Obama’s 2012 immigration policy which granted work permits and deportation protections to the “Dreamers,” thousands of undocumented youth who were brought in this country as children and grew up here. Twenty-six Republicans, including Congresswoman Renee Ellmers, voted against this amendment which narrowly passed in a 218-209 vote.

The bill now moves to the Senate where it will face a tough battle to get the 60 votes needed for it to pass, particularly due to this second measure overturning immigration protections for the Dreamers. The legislation which would supply the Homeland Security Department with almost $40 billion for the rest of the budget year must be passed, with or without the amendments, before the Department’s current funding expires at the end of February.

This legislation comes as no real surprise given the strong opposition and outrage from many Republicans over what they saw as Obama’s “unconstitutional” executive orders. However, in this battle for political power, it does seem that many of our representatives haven’t taken the time to consider the uncertainty and fear this legislation has brought back into the lives of millions of immigrants.

News

Roy Cooper 3North Carolina will not be joining Gov. Pat McCrory as a plaintiff in the multistate lawsuit filed earlier this week challenging President Barack Obama’s recent executive order on immigration.

McCrory signed on to that lawsuit in his capacity as governor and without the apparent support of his attorney general. Seventeen states and three other governors are also plaintiffs.

Yesterday, after the lawsuit had been filed on Wednesday, Lt. Gov. Dan Forest sent a letter to Attorney General Roy Cooper, asking him to join the case on behalf of the state.

In a letter today, Cooper declined, adding that he did not think it beneficial for the state to join the lawsuit and add to the divisiveness and inaction already surrounding the immigration debate.

Cooper’s words:

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News

Gov. Pat McCrory today joined 14 states and the governors of three others in a lawsuit challenging President Barack Obama’s recent executive order on immigration, which among other things halted the deportation of certain undocumented immigrants.

“The president has exceeded the balance of power provisions clearly laid out in the U.S. Constitution and his unilateral expansion of power must be challenged,” McCrory said in a statement. “In North Carolina, the 10th most populous state, the president’s actions are likely to put even more financial strain on our state’s government services.  It’s disappointing that the president has shown little regard for states which must shoulder the costs of his actions.”

McCrory appears to have joined the lawsuit in his capacity as governor and without the participation of Attorney General Roy Cooper.

Governor’s counsel Robert Stephens signed the complaint on McCrory’s behalf.

Read the full complaint here.

Commentary

ThanksgivingIf you’re preparing for the inevitable political discussions that will accompany your family get-togethers this week, here are three new Thanksgiving-themed posts that might help you out:

#1 is today’s Fitzsimon File, which highlights the hypocritical change of heart that so many conservative politicians display toward people in need around the holidays. As Chris notes, the disconnect between what the politicians say about the same needy people during the holidays and the other 11 months of the years is frequently breathtaking.

#2 is a new Q&A from the N.C. Budget and Tax Center entitled “How to talk about the economy and taxes with your family.” Here’s an example:

WHEN THEY SAY: “This state is spending more than ever on public education.”

YOU SAY: We’re funding public schools in NC nearly 6 percent less than in 2008 when you adjust for how much things cost.  This would be like the Panthers claiming a touchdown at the 6 yard line.

As the economy improves—and it is improving—we need to invest in our public schools to ensure that we educate our kids and build a sound foundation for future economic growth. Without investing more, we can’t ensure that our classrooms, teachers and students have the cutting-edge tools to improve learning.

Finally, #3 is this morning’s edition of the Weekly Briefing (“Food for thought on the immigration question”) in which several key facts are spelled out (and myths exposed) about President Obama’s executive order on immigration last week. For example: Read More