Immigrants Continue to Support a Changing Florida

Communications Associate

March 11, 2016

Immigrants have been key to the makeup of Florida throughout the state’s history. Florida ranked fifth among states in 2013 in its percentage of people who were foreign-born, at 19.4 percent. Floridians, like the U.S. population overall, generally support immigration reform that would provide undocumented immigrants the opportunity to earn citizenship. In 2014, the Public Religion Research Institute found that 61 percent of Floridians favor such reform, and an additional 19 percent believe that undocumented immigrants should have the opportunity to earn legal status.


“The Church in the United States continues to call for a just and comprehensive immigration reform … Jesus’ family spent time as refugees. How then can we not see Jesus in the face of migrants and refugees?”

Archbishop Thomas Wenski, Archdiocese of Miami

Florida’s Immigrant Demographics Highlight Importance of Reform

As of 2013, nearly 3.7 million immigrants resided in Florida. Half of Florida’s immigrants live in just two counties: Miami-Dade and Broward. In 2013, the top countries of origin for the 103,000 Floridians who gained permanent resident status were Cuba, Haiti and Colombia. Cubans were also the top refugee group being resettled in 2014, with Iraqis and Burmese rounding out the top three countries of origin.

Three-quarters of Florida’s immigrants (74.8 percent) are from Latin America and the Caribbean, with Cubans (882,000) the largest group. An additional 582,000 are from Haiti.

Of the 12 largest Hispanic groups in the U.S., Cubans are the most geographically concentrated: 70 percent of all Cubans in the U.S. live in Florida.

Immigrants are Integral to Florida’s Economy

Immigrants comprised nearly a quarter of Florida’s workforce (24.5 percent) as of 2013. Of the 25 largest U.S. metropolitan areas by population, Miami had the highest share of business owners who were foreign-born. Immigrants comprise 39 percent of Miami’s population and 45 percent of the city’s business owners. For the state as a whole, 29.7 percent of business owners are immigrants — third in the country behind California and New York. Seven of the ten largest Latino-owned businesses in the U.S. are located in Florida.

The combined purchasing power of Florida’s U.S.- and foreign-born Latinos and Asians in 2014 was $150 billion. Florida’s Hispanic households contributed more than one in every six dollars of tax revenue paid by state residents — $18.8 billion, with $11.1 billion coming from foreign-born Hispanics.

In addition, Florida relies on unauthorized immigrant workers more than most states. Unauthorized immigrants make up 6.9 percent of the state’s workforce — a greater percentage than all states except Nevada, California, Texas and New Jersey. If all of those workers were removed from the state, Florida would lose nearly $44 billion and more than 260,000 jobs. The state would also lose an estimated $634 million in state sales and excise taxes, and $73 million in property taxes. On the flip side, immigration reform that would provide legal status to Florida’s unauthorized workers would boost state and local taxes by an estimated $41 million per year.

Immigrants Could Help an Aging Florida Population Meet Workforce Needs

In 2000, Florida’s working-age population (ages 25 to 54) made up 41.5 percent of the population. By 2030 the share is expected to drop to 36.1 percent. The elderly population, by contrast, is growing rapidly. Between 2010 and 2030, people age 60 and older will represent the majority (56.9 percent) of the state’s population growth. This includes state residents who are aging, but also older migrants to Florida from other states. By 2030, the ratio of workers to retirees in Florida will fall to 2:1 from its current 3:1.

The aging population will create a greater demand for health care services just as many health care workers will be retiring. Between 2012 and 2030, health care and social assistance employment is expected to grow by more than a quarter million jobs (228,000). By 2020, Florida is expected to face the second-greatest shortage of registered nurses in the country: 61,000. Only California is expected to see a larger deficit.

Immigrants tend to be younger that the native population, with a greater percentage still in their working years. With the skills and training to thrive, immigrants can play an important role in mitigating some of the workforce challenges the state will face in the very near future.

In addition, Florida’s 36,000 foreign students not only contribute to the state’s economy ($1.1 billion in tuition, fees and living expenses in the 2013-2014 academic year), but also are awarded a high percentage of the degrees in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). That same year, Florida educational institutions awarded 38.8 percent of master’s degrees and 52.9 percent of doctoral degrees to foreign students. But our current immigration system requires that most of these highly-trained individuals leave the U.S. once their studies are complete.

Immigrant, Latino and Asian Voters in Florida

The Latino share of Florida’s voting population is the fifth highest in the nation, at 17.9 percent. Between 2012 and 2020, Florida’s combined number of U.S.-born Latinos turning 18 and Latinos becoming new U.S. citizens is estimated to be 828,000. Estimates suggest that an additional 125,000 Asians also will join the population of Floridians eligible to vote.

Latino voters in Florida are becoming more diverse, both politically and in terms of country of origin. In the past, the Latino vote in Florida was dominated by Cuban Americans. But in 2012, a majority (57 percent) of Latino voters were non-Cuban. Among these voters, President Obama won 66 percent of the vote. The Cuban vote was split in 2012, with 52 percent voting Republican. However, among younger, U.S.-born Cubans 60 percent voted Democratic.

Florida Faith, Law Enforcement and Business Media Availability

Jim Gill, President, TMG Government

Chief John Mina, Orlando Police Department

David Uth, Senior Pastor, First Baptist Orlando

Archbishop Thomas Wenski, Archdiocese of Miami

Please contact Cathleen Farrell to arrange interviews.