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Report: Immigrants are large contributors to Maryland's economy

Immigrants are large contributors to Maryland's economy — employing more than 125,000 people at their businesses and paying $9 billion in taxes, according to a report from a group supporting immigration reform.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and other local leaders gathered Wednesday at the Baltimore Immigration Museum in Locust Point to annouce findings of the report by the Partnership for a New American Economy. The report noted that more than one of every seven people living in Maryland was born in another country. Twenty-five percent of Maryland's Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or their children, it said.

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"Immigration unequivocally makes our society fairer, our cultures richer and our economy stronger," Rawlings-Blake said.

The push to highlight the role of immigrants as economic and cultural contributors comes as Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has proposed banning Muslim immigrants from entering the country and building a wall along the Mexican border to stop illegal immigration.

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Rawlings-Blake has long been a proponent of immigration to Baltimore as a way to work toward her goal of increasing the city's population by 10,000 families over 10 years. In 2012, she signed an executive order that prohibits city police from asking about a person's citizenship status.

"There is no shortage of contributions immigrants make to Maryland's economy. They start businesses at an impressive rate and employ 125,898 people in Maryland alone," Rawlings-Blake said. "Immigrants fill gaps in our job sector, help revitalize our housing market and invest in our universities."

The report on immigration in Maryland came as the Partnership for a New American Economy released similar studies based on U.S. Census data in all 50 states. The partnership is made up of 500 Republican, Democratic and independent mayors and business leaders who are pushing for immigration reform.

The chairs of the partnership include News Corp chairman Rupert Murdoch, former Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and Disney CEO Bob Iger.

The study found that immigrants make up 14.8 percent of Maryland's population and contributed 16 percent of federal, state and local taxes paid. Immigrants earned $33.7 billion in income in 2014, the report said.

The report said that immigrants in Maryland contribute to key industries. They make up nearly 26 percent of all entrepreneurs in the state and play a large role in science, technology, engineering and math fields.

Asian immigrants paid $5.7 billion in federal, Maryland and local taxes in 2014; Hispanic immigrants paid $1.6 billion; African immigrants paid $1.4 billion; and Middle Eastern immigrants paid $450 million, according to the report.

Dan Wallace, the director of state and local initiatives at the Partnership for the New American Economy, said the report doesn't come with any specific policy recommendations.

"It's about comprehensive immigration reform," he said.

He said the partnership's broader goals include securing the borders and preventing illegal immigration through tougher enforcement and better use of technology; increasing opportunities for immigrants to enter the United States workforce; and establishing a path to legal status for immigrants who entered the country illegally.

Wallace said the group's study of data did not show that American workers are being harmed by immigration. He said the group is hoping more data and better information will help persuade opponents of immigration through evidence.

"The net impact of immigration is net positive for the country," he said.

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