Former Census director: Immigrants needed

By M. Scott Carter
The Journal Record
Posted: 10:07 PM Wednesday, June 15, 2011

NORMAN – Oklahoma – and the rest of the United States – will need a diverse immigrant population if both hope to grow, the former director of the U.S. Census Bureau said.

Speaking at a recent conference sponsored by the Institute for Justice and Journalism, Steve Murdock, Texas’ former state demographer, said growth and immigration patterns that were once unique to Texas, Arizona, New Mexico and California are now representative of the entire nation.

“The Texas of today is the United States of tomorrow,” Murdock said. “When you look at demographics and the changes and the growth we’re seeing, it’s now everywhere.”

He said the possibilities for population growth among white Anglo-Saxons were limited.

“For those countries looking for growth, that growth must come from other populations,” he said.

About 85 percent of the country’s population growth, Murdock said, took place in the Southern and Western parts of the country.

“The states growing are located in the South and the West,” he said. “That is a long-term phenomenon that’s over a century old.”

Murdock’s analysis was underscored by a 2010 study from the American Immigration Council’s Immigration Policy Center. Released last summer, that study said Latino and Asian immigrants account for growing shares of the economy and the electorate in Oklahoma.

“Immigrants, the foreign born, make up one in 20 Oklahomans,” the study said. “And one-third of them are naturalized U.S. citizens who are eligible to vote.”

Immigrants are not only integral to Oklahoma’s economy, the study said, but also account for billions of dollars in tax revenue and consumer purchasing power. Data from the study showed that Latinos and Asians – both foreign-born and native-born – bring $7.9 billion in consumer purchasing power to the state’s economy. Moreover, Latino and Asian businesses had sales of $2 billion and employed more than 17,000.

In 2002, the 5,442 Latino-owned businesses in Oklahoma had sales of $1.1 billion and employed 8,161 people. Those figures parallel the economic impact of the Asian community here. During that same time, Oklahoma’s 4,583 Asian-owned businesses had sales of $929.1 million and employed 9,452.

Both groups, the study said, should not be ignored.

“At a time of economic recession, Oklahoma can ill-afford to alienate such an important component of its labor force, tax base, and business community,” the study said.

A separate study, from the Selig Center for Economic Growth, said Latinos in Oklahoma wielded $5.8 billion in purchasing power in 2009, an increase of more than 700 percent from 1990.

Murdock said the data demonstrates a very simple rule of American demographics.

“I find very few states that are not diverse that are not growing,” he said.

In Texas, he said, 65 percent of the state’s growth was due to the Hispanic population.

And though the country’s immigrant population is large, the belief that every resident who is foreign born is an undocumented alien, Murdock said, is clearly wrong. That’s led an immigrant-based country to be anything but immigrant-friendly.

“Anyone who thinks we’re friendly to immigrants needs to go back and read some more,” he said. “In the 1960s America had some of the most racist immigration laws in the world.”

M. Scott Carter,
Capitol Bureau Reporter
The Journal Record
(405) 278-2838 – Downtown
(405) 524-7777 – Capitol bureau

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