THE QUIET QUEST: Professionals Seeking Citizenship:”

Mike Reagen Citizen Member Editorial Board

Mike Reagen
Citizen Member Editorial Board

A four-part series


The fact that many foreign-born professionals are legally seeking admission to the USA is one aspect of the fractious debate on immigration that is often overlooked. It is important, as the debate surely becomes more rancorous and divisive in the days ahead, that their importance and their contributions be considered and put into context.

As Neil Diamond wrote and sang in 1980, the data is clear. More folks are moving to SWFL to enrich our communities. FGCU’s Dr. Gary Jackson shares data that by 2015 our six-county [Charlotte, Collier, Glades, Hendry, Lee and Sarasota] regional population will total 1,769,438 people. Lee County’s economic development Office’s recently reported a net total of 5,242 moved to Lee from nine U.S. States plus Florida.

Three percent came from foreign countries and their impact is considerable. While foreign borns’ share of total U.S. population in 2011 was almost 40.8 million or 13 percent of our 313.0 million, between 2011 and 2012, another 1.1 percent or 447,000 came to our nation. Today, 15.3 percent of Lee County’s population of 661,115 and 23.6% of Collier County’s population of 339,642 are foreign born.

Much debate, of course, is focused on the influx of less-skilled foreign borns coming to the USA to work in our agriculture, hospitality, manufacturing, construction industries. But we should also focus on the positive impact of foreign borns on physical science, computer science, business and health care, jobs requiring higher education and training. The incomes of those foreignborn naturalized citizens exceed noncitizen incomes by 60%. They pay more taxes, buy more goods and services
and make other contributions to our GNP. Foreign-born citizens add significantly to our well-being. According to William A. Kandel, U.S. Congressional Research Service Analyst, in recent years, foreign-borns contributed to nearly 30% of recent U.S. Population growth. More than two-thirds of the foreign-borns serving in our armed forces are naturalized citizens. The 44,705 members of the U.S. Armed Forces who were naturalized citizens in February 2008 represent 68% percent of the 65,033
foreign-borns serving in the U.S. Military, says Jeanne Batalova, Senior Policy Analyst at the Migration Policy Institute.

Foreign-born citizens also help keep Social Security and Medicare solvent and pay other local, state and U.S. taxes. They often create their own jobs and own businesses which, in turn create jobs for other Americans. They well integrate into our local communities by their educational, home ownerships and increased living standard advances. And, increasingly, they come here to study.

“Foreign students have long sought education in the United States, but shifting economic fortunes have quickened the flow and titled the demographics younger” says Michael Alison Chandler in a recent Washington Post article.

“At a time when many ‘Made in the USA’ products struggle in the global marketplace, American diplomas are more coveted than ever. More than 650,000 international students were enrolled in U.S. colleges and universities in 2009, fueling a nearly $18 billion international education industry. Federal government data show that 35,000 foreign students attend primary or secondary schools in the United States, not including one-year cultural exchange programs or short-term language courses,” Chandler said.

Devon Haynie, education reporter for US News, recently wrote that, “The United States enrolled the highest number of international students in its history during the 2012-2013 school year, welcoming 819,644  undergraduate and graduate students to colleges and universities throughout the country.”

There are now 40 percent more international students studying in the U.S. than 10 years ago, according to the report by the Institute of International Education [IIE]. The influx of foreign students boosts the U.S. an economic, says the IIE, adding approximately $24 billion to the U.S. economy and, according to the Association for International education, helped create
300,000 jobs in 2011-2012.

Few of these students get scholarships from U.S. universities. About 72 percent of international students receive most of their funds from personal and family sources or from their home country governments or universities, the IIE reports.

Also, according to the National Association of International Educators [NAFSA], foreign students contributed helped create 300,000 jobs in 2011-2012. In fact, over the last three years the international student population has been increasing and today there are 764,495 international students in the US. And many of our well-educated foreign-born citizens who have studied here have powerful, varied stories and strong opinions. We asked several who are Collier County citizens to share both. We asked them why and how they came here and what advice they would give to others, including our policy makers.
November: Their Stories.

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