South Carolina business leaders hoping to see a breakthrough on immigration reform often point to the importance of immigrants in the state’s agricultural and hospitality sectors.
But a new study also details how immigration helps metro areas by creating or preserving manufacturing jobs and bolstering home values.
Brad Dean, president of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce, said the study “illustrates the positive impact that substantive immigration reform will have on our economy.”
The report, “Immigration and the Revival of American Cities: From Preserving Manufacturing Jobs to Strengthening the Housing Market,” was prepared by Duke University professor Jacob Vigdor for the Americas Society/Council of the Americas.
Its conclusion: For every 1,000 immigrants living in the United States, 46 manufacturing jobs are created or saved. Vigdor’s data shows that:
In Greenville County, where the foreign-born population is 7.9 percent, immigrants have increased home values by $1,857 and helped save 1,584 manufacturing jobs.
In Richland County, where the foreign-born population is 5.3 percent, immigrants have increased home values by $814 and helped save 905 manufacturing jobs.
In Charleston County, where the foreign-born population is 5.6 percent, immigrants have increased home values by $940 and helped save 884 manufacturing jobs.
Mary Graham of the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce said the study is sound but is not necessarily as applicable to this region.
“We don’t feel like it’s that relevant to Charleston,” she said. “Not that there’s anything wrong with the study. Our focus is more on that high-tech, high skilled level.”
Steven Mungo, CEO of the Irmo-based Mungo Homes, said American-owned builders such as his company are hurt by a current shortage of skilled labor.
“It will hamper our housing recovery if we do not get proper immigration reform,” he added, “and this study demonstrates what’s at stake.”
South Carolina’s numbers pale in comparison to counties that have seen the most immigration, such as Palm Beach, Fla., where the foreign-born population is 22.3 percent. There, the study estimates that immigrants have helped save 11,031 manufacturing jobs and added $10,703 to home values.
In Los Angeles, where the foreign-born population is 35.6 percent, immigration has added only $3,292 to housing values but helped save or create 159,980 manufacturing jobs, the study says.
U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., has been among the most vocal proponents of immigration reform, but the Senate’s proposal faces an uncertain future in the Republican-controlled House.
Those opposed to the proposed immigration reform have not debated the economic impact as much as they have questioned whether the deal would adequately secure the border — and prevent another glut of illegal immigrants in the years to come.
Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771.