City of Boise Touts Study on Immigrants' Economic Contributions to Ada County 

Sixteen people became U.S. citizens during a Boise Refugee Day celebration in 2017. This year, 20 people are expected to become citizens at the celebration.

Harrison Berry

Sixteen people became U.S. citizens during a Boise Refugee Day celebration in 2017. This year, 20 people are expected to become citizens at the celebration.

Amid a national conversation about immigration and a day ahead of World Refugee Day, think tank New American Economy released a study showing that in 2016, immigrants contributed whopping sums to the Ada County Gross Domestic Product.

"I'd say we have implicitly understood that immigrants and refugees have made immense cultural contributions to our community, but this puts them in terms of economic contributions," said City of Boise Director of Community Partnerships Diana Lachiondo. "So really stunning to me was that immigrants in 2016 contributed $1.8 billion to Ada County's GDP."

The study, titled "New Americans in Ada County," was compiled in conjunction with the City of Boise, the Boise Metro Chamber of Commerce, Global Talent Idaho and the Idaho Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. It showed foreign-born Ada County residents earned more than $638 million. They contributed $109 million and nearly $50 million in federal, and state and local taxes, respectively.

During the time frame of the study, they made up 6.3 percent of the population, but accounted for 7.5 percent of the working-age population, 7.1 percent of the employed labor force and 12.4 percent of people working in STEM-related jobs.

"In those fields of science, technology and engineering, they're sort of punching above their weight," Lachiondo said.

The city had long planned to release the study during Immigrant Heritage Month—a collection of stories about new Americans has been compiled by the city and made available online—and right before World Refugee Day. However, current events may color how it's received.

After a ProPublica report detailing President Donald Trump's policy of separating children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border, the Boise City Council unanimously passed a resolution urging the Idaho congressional delegation to help end that policy.

"It is barbaric," said Boise Mayor Dave Bieter. "It's a shameful betrayal of the humanitarian values on which our great country was founded."

Trump later reversed his policy through an executive order that detains children with their parents at the border while immigration courts adjudicate their cases.

According to Lachiondo, the New American Economy study was made possible by a technical assistance grant awarded in September, and there is no intentional relationship between the timing of its release and the current immigration controversy. Rather, there is a connection between the commissioning of the study and the February 2017 passage of the City of Boise's "Welcoming City Resolution," which took place shortly after Trump won the 2016 election and hot debate broke out over a state law proposed by Rep. Greg Chaney (R-Caldwell) that would deny tax dollars to Idaho sanctuary cities.

"At the behest of the Boise City Council and the mayor, we really want to put those terms of being a welcoming community into action. That's not a sound bite for us," Lachiondo said. "That's about how we understand what the context of refugees is in our community and how we create a space where we can continue to be a welcoming community, and really help all Boiseans benefit from the talents and skills that immigrants and refugees bring to the table."
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