Immigrants Continue to Rebuild and Strengthen Colorado
March 1, 2016
During the 1980s, an oil bust triggered a population decline in Denver. But in the 1990s, the city’s population increased by 19 percent thanks to an influx of immigrants, the majority of whom were from Mexico. This growth affected the rest of the state as well, with the foreign-born percentage of the population in Colorado increasing from 4.3 percent in 1990 to 10 percent in 2014. Among Coloradans, 17 percent speak a language other than English at home, including 84 percent of the state’s foreign-born population. Today immigrants make up 15.8 percent of Denver’s population.
An estimated 180,000 undocumented immigrants, 3.5 percent of the state’s total population, lived in Colorado as of 2012, and they paid more than $144 million in state and local taxes. In 2014, 61 percent of Colorado residents said that immigrants currently living in the U.S. without documentation should be allowed to become citizens provided they meet certain requirements, according to the Public Religion Research Institute. An additional 19 percent said they should be allowed to become permanent residents.
“The immigrant community and our community are one and the same. Together, for several years we have diligently worked to create space to dialogue and learn from one another about how the broken immigration system has affected our communities, keeping us divided. And, we have come to this shared conclusion: Immigrants are vital in our communities, and we must treat them with respect and dignity. Our laws must reflect that conclusion.”
— 63 Colorado evangelical leaders, in an open letter to Republican presidential candidates
ahead of the Oct. 28, 2015, debate in Boulder
Immigrants Help Business in Colorado Thrive
Immigrant entrepreneurs help build a thriving Colorado economy. In 2015, Colorado had the fourth highest amount of startup activity in the country, an improvement from the state’s seventh-place ranking in 2014. According to the 2006-2010 American Community Survey, immigrants owned 27,645 businesses in Colorado, 9.7 percent of businesses in the state.
At 69 percent, participation in the labor force among foreign-born residents slightly exceeds the 67.9 percent participation among the native-born population. Immigrants comprised 11.4 percent of Colorado’s workforce in 2013. Immigrant labor accounted for 21.5 percent of the construction industry; 15.3 percent of the arts, entertainment, recreation and food services industries; and 13.9 percent of the manufacturing workforce.
In 2012, undocumented immigrants made up 4.7 percent of the state’s labor force. Removing all undocumented immigrants from Colorado would result in an estimated loss of $8 billion of annual economic activity and nearly 40,000 jobs. According to the Colorado Fiscal Institute, if Colorado’s undocumented immigrants had the opportunity to earn citizenship, the state would gain 9,800 jobs and see $840 million in additional economic activity.
Educational Opportunities and Gaps
International students contribute to Colorado’s economy, and many earn degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). In 2009, 21 percent of foreign students in Colorado earned STEM master’s degrees, and 21.4 percent earned doctorate degrees in STEM fields. In the 2013-2014 academic year, 9,621 international students contributed $303.4 million to the state’s economy in tuition, fees and living expenses.
As a whole, the foreign-born population in Colorado faces gaps in education in comparison with the state’s native-born population. About 34 percent of the foreign-born population does not have a high school degree, compared with nearly 6 percent of the native-born population. On the other end of the spectrum, about 27 percent of Colorado’s foreign-born residents hold at least a bachelor’s degree, compared with 40 percent of the native-born population.
Welcoming Initiatives Show that Colorado Values Immigrants
Major cities across Colorado have launched programs to help welcome new immigrants to the state. In 2014, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock declared September 24 to be “Welcoming Denver Day.”
In January 2015, the Denver Office of Community Support changed its name to the Denver Office on Immigrant and Refugee Affairs to more clearly reflect the office’s values and objectives.
In September 2015, the City of Aurora unveiled a three-year comprehensive plan for immigrant integration, with the goal of becoming a national leader in the area. The purpose of the plan is to engage and aid the city’s foreign-born population to encourage their full participation within their communities economically, civically and culturally.
New Voters are Changing Elections in Colorado
Between 2012 and 2020, an estimated 207,000 Hispanic and Asian Colorado residents will become eligible to vote — including U.S. citizens turning 18 and new citizens 18 years and older. Of those, an estimated 95,963 will be eligible by the 2016 general election.
In 2014, Colorado was No. 7 among the states for share of eligible voters who are Latino, at 14.2 percent of its total voters.
In the 2012 presidential race, President Obama defeated Mitt Romney in Colorado by about 113,000 votes — and won the Latino vote 75 percent to 23 percent. Latinos made up 14 percent of Colorado voters in 2012, up from 13 percent in 2008.
Colorado Faith, Law Enforcement and Business Media Availability
Neil Alvarado, Director, National Job Fair
Danny Carroll Rodas, Distinguished Professor of Old Testament, Denver Seminary
Chief Dwight Henninger, Vail Police Department
Warren Klug, General Manager, Aspen Square Hotel
Will Stoller-Lee, Director, Fuller Seminary in Colorado
Jeff Wasden, President, Colorado Business Roundtable
Please contact Cathleen Farrell to arrange interviews.