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Report: Immigrants added $3.4 billion to Dane County’s gross domestic product in 2016

October 1, 2018

Immigrant residents in Dane County contributed $3.4 billion to the county’s gross domestic product in 2016, according to a report from New American Economy, a bipartisan advocacy group that examines immigration policy through the lens of economics.

That same year, foreign-born county residents paid $248.9 million in federal taxes and $124.1 million in state and local taxes, the report said. Immigrants made up 8.7 percent of Dane County’s population and contributed an equal 8.7 percent of the county’s total gross domestic product of $39.3 billion in 2016, the report said.

“The city of Madison has always prided itself in welcoming immigrants and new members to our community,” Madison Mayor Paul Soglin said in a statement. “We welcome their involvement in our schools, our businesses, our neighborhoods and in our government.

The top occupation for immigrants in Dane County was post-secondary teaching, representing the career for a little more than 10 percent of all foreign-born county residents. It was followed by cooks (6.6 percent), software developers (6.1 percent), janitors and building cleaners (2.9 percent) and computer programmers (2.4 percent).

In 2016, there were about 45,000 immigrants living in Dane County, of which 37.5 percent were naturalized citizens, the report said. The top five countries of origin for immigrant residents were Mexico (22.6 percent), China (9.7 percent), India (9.7 percent), Laos (4.7 percent) and Thailand (3.7 percent).

Last week, Dane County and Madison officials condemned the actions by federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents after 83 immigrants were detained throughout Wisconsin, including 20 in Dane County.

ICE said it arrested “criminal aliens and immigration violators” over a four-day “enforcement surge” that included 44 people with criminal convictions, but Soglin and some Madison City Council members challenged the arrests as “racist and xenophobic.”

Immigrants paid $141.9 million to Social Security and $37.4 million to Medicare in 2016, the report said. A smaller percentage of foreign-born residents, compared to U.S.-born residents, received Medicare or Medicaid that year at 16.4 percent and 23.2 percent, respectively, according to the report.

The report was conducted in partnership with Jewish Social Services of Madison, the city of Madison and the Latino Chamber of Commerce of Dane County. Most data in the report was collected from the U.S. Census Bureau’s five-year American Community Survey that covered 2011-2016.

Dawn Berney, executive director of Jewish Social Services, which does a lot of work with refugees and immigrants, said the report was commissioned about a year ago. It just happened to be completed soon after the ICE enforcement in the area and an announcement by the Trump administration that the cap on refugees admitted to the United States would drop to 30,000 for 2019, she said.

“It really made sense so we could help other people to understand how important immigrants are to our community and how it makes the economics of Dane County as robust as they are,” Berney said of the report.

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