More than 1,000 Immigrants from 75 countries took the oath of allegiance to the U.S. and became citizens in a 2018 ceremony. Photo by Chris Stone

A new study calls for San Diego to aid immigrants facing barriers to workforce entry, including their  legal status, lack of English fluency, and biases tied to their skin color and religion.

The report, by the San Diego Workforce Partnership, concludes that the region should develop community-focused solutions to embrace diversity, and mobilize New Americans as a potential pillar of strength for the local workforce.

That in turn, they argue, will strengthen the region’s economy.

In San Diego, new Americans represent 25% of the total population, contribute to $9 billion in tax revenue and have more than $22 billion in disposable income for businesses to tap.

Yet immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers face a range of inequities. They include lack of job experience in the U.S. to delays in conversion of credentials from their home countries.
Solutions, according to the report, include:
  • Employers considering how foreign-language fluency, adaptability and resilience can connect with a diverse market.
  • Educators assisting those who already have credentials in understanding how to navigate the U.S. system.
According to the report, “New Americans Make San Diego’s Economy Work – Now Let’s Make it Work for Them,” four countries dominate San Diego’s immigrant population. Two-thirds come from Mexico, the Philippines, Vietnam and India.

San Diego also is one of the nation’s leading destinations for refugee resettlement. Since 2002, more than 18,000 refugees have chosen the region. They hail from Iraq, Somalia, Burma, Democratic Republic of Congo and Syria.

The study also cites a strain on public services and losses to the tax base when immigrants don’t receive opportunities for which they qualify.

The authors – San Diego Workforce Partnership’s Brooke Valle, chief strategy and innovation officer;  with research by Daniel Enemark, a lead economist – estimate that 30% of new Americans arrive in the U.S. with bachelor’s degrees or above, yet find themselves working in poor quality jobs. That leads to a greater likelihood that they must turn to social services for aid.

Meanwhile, they argue, nationwide, college-educated immigrants in low-skill jobs miss out on more than $39 billion in wages. As a result, federal, state and local governments lose more than $10 billion in unrealized tax payments.

– Staff reports
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