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Tallahassee Democrat: There Are Compelling Reasons for Immigration Reform

Friday, August 05, 2016

By Ed Moore

6:53 a.m. EDT 

One in five residents in Florida were born in another country. In fact, the entire population of Florida’s immigrants — all 3,975,000 of them — is bigger than the populations of Utah, Oklahoma or Mississippi.

Because the foreign-born are so integral to our state’s economy, we need to have a serious discussion about how we can ensure that they fully participate in the workforce and feel welcomed in our state. That’s why on Wednesday, I participated in a Day of Action for the Reason for Reform Campaign in Florida, alongside the Partnership for a New American Economy (NAE), to call on our leaders to take action on immigration reform.

We simply cannot ignore the impact of our foreign-born population, as they work in every sector of our economy. As part of the Reason for Reform campaign, NAE released a report on the economic contributions of Florida’s immigrants, as well as reports in every state plus Washington, D.C.

Here in the Sunshine State, immigrants work in a variety of positions, from farm laborers to entrepreneurs, making them critical contributors to Florida’s overall economic success. But due to our nation’s outdated immigration system, we are not making the most out of the amazing economic potential brought to the state by our foreign-born population.

We need to take a fresh look at the United States immigration policy, to create a smart, streamlined system that will allow for economic growth and security. A look at immigration in the state of Florida offers up many reasons for reform that Congress must recognize.

Florida’s agriculture sector brings in $6.4 billion in GDP every year. However, we are losing ground to imports from abroad because we can’t get the laborers needed to grow and harvest our crops. All the while, our immigrants are helping fill the gaps: NAE’s report found that in 2014 over half of all the agricultural workers in the state were immigrants.

In the lucrative science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields, immigrants help ensure that Florida remains a leading innovator in aviation, aerospace and life sciences. NAE states that in 2014, foreign-born Floridians made up over 22 percent of STEM workers, despite making up 20 percent of the state’s overall population.

Florida is home to many top universities that educate and train foreign-born STEM workers, but our broken immigration system often forces them to leave the country after graduation. NAE estimates that if half of Florida’s 2,439 advanced level STEM grads on temporary visas stayed in the state after graduation, 3,195 jobs for U.S.-born workers would be created by 2021. This would be a boon for our state.

Immigrants have powerful roles to play in our economy — from high-skilled positions to labor-intensive jobs. The reasons for immigration reform are many, and we need to urge members of Congress to take action.

Visit to contribute your voice and your reason for reform.

Ed Moore is president of the Independent Colleges and Universities of Florida.

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