The 11,800 immigrants who call Bloomington-Normal home pay $73 million in taxes and contribute $1.2 billion to the county’s domestic product, according to data provided Friday to an audience attending the fundraising event. of The Immigration Project at Illinois State University.
Dr. Frank Beck, director of the ISU Stevenson Center for Community and Economic Development, and graduate student Juliana Vidal were the luncheon keynote speakers.
Immigrants represent 6.9% of the population of the twin towns; 5,000 of those residents are naturalized citizens, Beck said. The fact that 87.4% of immigrants are long-term residents testifies to their attachment to the territory, according to the speakers.
People who came to McLean County own 10.2% of all homes, with a combined land value of $645 million.
Vidal, the daughter of Colombian immigrants who settled in Peoria, noted that 7.8% of the county’s labor force are immigrants. The diverse population speaks 38 different languages.
After the presentation, Beck said he was surprised by some of the data generated by the study.
“To see that the contribution is $1.2 billion in our domestic product was significant,” Beck said. Cultural factors may help explain this figure. “We know that these low-income people tend to spend more money where they live,” the researcher said.
The full report on the economic, social and demographic impact of immigrants on the McLean County economy is expected in approximately two weeks. The research project was commissioned by BN Welcoming, a coalition of The Immigration Project, Not in Our Town, West Bloomington Revitalization Project and local faith communities.
Charlotte Alvarez, Executive Director of The Immigration Project, shared stories of the difficulties many people face on their journey across the border.
“The violence is intense” in some cases, Alvarez said. A man lost hearing in one ear and a woman told immigration lawyers she had been abused. “After that, I lost the baby,” the woman told a lawyer.
It’s a long process to get a visa, Alvarez said. Cases that once took six years now take 15 years. Meanwhile, immigrants are invested in their communities and often serve as mentors to others.
Poor housing conditions and lack of jobs are among the challenges.
“We can’t do everything, but we can help with some,” Alvarez said.
The legal aid team was expecting information Friday from Governor JB Pritzker on which cities in Illinois would be asked to help with a surplus population of immigrants sent to Illinois by the governor of Texas. Lawyers and staff are ready to help, she said.
Approximately one-third of clients who receive legal assistance are children. The Illinois Immigration Project opened in 1995 and has offices in Normal and Champaign.