Immigrants play an important role in Connecticut's economy--as entrepreneurs, in the workforce, and as taxpayers and consumers according to a new report.

Released by New American Economy, an advocacy organization led by political and business leaders, the report says 494,059 Connecticut residents were born abroad.

Immigrant entrepreneurs
Source: New American Economy

That's 14% of the state's population, compared to 13% across the United States. The immigrant population grew 4.5% between 2010 and 2014 in Connecticut and 5.8% nationally.

Connecticut's immigrant-led households earned $18.9 billion in 2014, paying $1.8 billion in state and local taxes, $3.3 billion in federal taxes, and over $2.3 billion to Medicare and Social Security.

"Immigrants in Connecticut, like the country as whole, are often over-represented in either high-skilled or particularly labor-intensive positions," the report said.

"While foreign-born workers make up 16.8% of the state's employed population, they account for 57.8% of software developers...45.2% of those working as maids and housekeepers, and more than half of painters in the construction and maintenance industry."

Healthcare, Bioscience Impact

In 2014, almost one-quarter (23.8%) of Connecticut workers in science, technology, engineering, and math fields such as healthcare and bioscience were immigrants.

STEM industries are among the fastest growing sectors in the state and U.S. The report says there was one unemployed STEM worker for every 10.9 STEM jobs advertised in Connecticut in 2014.

NAE argues that immigration and visa reform could help address that growing shortage of skilled workers.

Industry share of foreign born workers
Source: New American Economy

"Our outdated immigration system makes it difficult for STEM employers to sponsor the high-skilled workers they need to fill critical positions," the report said.

Over 36,000 foreign-born Connecticut residents are self-employed, with immigrant-owned businesses generating $1.1 billion income in 2014 while employing 73,047 people.

The NAE report says nine of the 18 Fortune 500 companies based in Connecticut were founded by immigrants or their children.

Those firms generate $284.5 billion in annual revenues and employ 862,202 people globally.

"Immigrant entrepreneurs have long been a critical part of Connecticut's economic success," the report says.

Reform Proposals

The of majority of immigrants living in Connecticut are either naturalized U.S. citizens, green card holders, or here on work or student visas. Almost 130,000--4% of the state's total population--are undocumented.

While acknowledging that the undocumented population "undermines law and order, permits a shadow economy," and is unfair to legal immigrants, the report again points to the lack of reform.

"As the undocumented immigration problem has gone largely unaddressed for the past 30 years, undocumented workers...have begun to play an increasingly integral role in many U.S. industries," NAE said.

NAE supports a series of reforms, including preventing illegal immigration through tougher enforcement; developing a simple and secure system for verifying employment eligibility; increasing opportunities for immigrants to enter the workforce; streamlining the temporary work visa process; and establishing a path to legal status for undocumented immigrants.

Led by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch, NAE also includes businesses and organizations such as Intel, Google, Microsoft, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the Society for Human Resource Management.