Immigrants are one of Santa Clara County's key economic drivers, bringing billions of dollars into the community.
Approximately 765,800 immigrants contributed $255 billion to the county's gross domestic product in 2021, according to a recent report that reveals the significant role immigrants play in the region's labor force, businesses and consumer spending.
New Americans in Santa Clara County, a report created by the American Immigration Council and Santa Clara County Office of Immigrant Relations, reports that 50.3% of the county's business owners in 2021 were immigrants, even though they comprised 40.6% of the population. The report shows 42,000 immigrant entrepreneurs in the county generated $1.5 billion in income.
Maritza Maldonado, executive director of Amigos de Guadalupe, said since March she's seen an influx of asylum seekers in her office, including more than 100 families. Maldonado wants residents to stand in solidarity with immigrants, support advocacy efforts for comprehensive immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship, celebrate their contributions and vote.
"We know how much our immigrant community has contributed," she told San Jose Spotlight, "but to actually have data that can legitimize it is really important. Now we have the facts."
Zelica Rodriguez-Deams, manager for the county office of immigrant relations, told San Jose Spotlight a needs assessment specific to the immigrant community hasn't been done in 23 years. She said the report shows the strengths, skills and expertise of immigrants who are building businesses, paying taxes and enriching the region's cultural fabric. Rodriguez-Deams said the county is developing a welcoming and belonging plan for new immigrants and surveying existing communities to assess their needs from housing and education to language access and legal services.
Julie Ramirez, manager for Santa Clara County's Division of Equity and Social Justice, said the study highlights the contributions of immigrants and the need to diversify services and make them accessible.
"We hope to demystify and counter the negative narrative that surrounds the stories of immigrants," she told San Jose Spotlight. "They help make our community great."
County Executive James Williams added that these residents help make the county a center for innovation, creativity and economic growth. He said the county stands up for immigrant rights through its policies and services and is the first county in the nation to provide health insurance for all children, regardless of immigration status. He said the county also leads the nation on sanctuary jurisdiction policy.
County Supervisor Otto Lee said the region is made up of different stories, backgrounds, cultures and families from around the world.
"Silicon Valley offered immigrants opportunity and hope," Lee said, "and in return, these hard-working immigrants did more than their share contributing to the economic growth of the county, the Bay Area and beyond."
This story, from Bay City News Service, was originally published by San Jose Spotlight.