A large portion of the construction economy in San Antonio is made up of immigrants, "The immigrant community is literally building our community as we grow”, Kate Brick, director of state and local initiatives at New American Economy said.
A large portion of the construction economy in San Antonio is made up of immigrants, "The immigrant community is literally building our community as we grow”, said Kate Brick, director of state and local initiatives at New American Economy. Credit: Scott Ball / Rivard Report

Immigrants in San Antonio contributed to the economy on a large scale, according to research released Tuesday by New American Economy and Welcoming America, bipartisan organizations that advocate for inclusive public policy for immigrants.

Late last year, the organizations named San Antonio one of 14 cities selected to receive a Gateway for Growth Award. The organizations began delivering on that award Tuesday at a forum hosted by the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce where they shared their research.

The City now can use the data to have more informed conversations throughout the community and ultimately construct a strategic plan for becoming a welcoming place for immigrants.

“Cities don’t have access to that kind of data,” said Kate Brick, director of state and local initiatives at New American Economy. “So to be able to quantify who immigrants are and their economic value is really important when you’re trying to support efforts like San Antonio is leading.”

Fellow Texas cities such as Dallas, Houston, and Corpus Christi have participated in the program in the past. Dallas is currently in the process of developing its plan to become a more welcoming city, Brick said.

According to research presented by Brick, immigrant households in San Antonio earned 4.6 billion in income in 2017 and paid more than $1 billion in federal, state and local taxes. The report said 200,081 immigrants lived in San Antonio in 2017 and 64.8 percent of them came to the city from Mexico. The next largest segment, 4.4 percent, came from India.

The research also showed immigrants made up 30.3 percent of business owners in San Antonio in 2017 despite representing just 13.5 percent of the population. Immigrant entrepreneurs worked in a variety of sectors across the economy with 25.4 percent rooted in construction in 2017.

“The immigrant community is literally building our community as we grow,” Brick said.

Kate Brick, director of state and local initiatives at New American Economy.
Kate Brick, director of state and local initiatives at New American Economy. Credit: Scott Ball / Rivard Report

Richard Perez, president of San Antonio’s Chamber of Commerce, said the research is invaluable to the city, the business community, and his organization. He said it demonstrates how vital immigrants are to San Antonio’s economy. 

“Business owners want to feel welcome,” Perez said. “Families want to feel welcome. It’s important for San Antonio and our economy to become a more welcoming city.”

Dr. Lloyd Potter, interim Dean of the College of Public Policy at the University of Texas at San Antonio, who discussed immigration policies and research during the forum, said the majority of immigrants coming to Texas are establishing themselves in Dallas and Houston to join family members already here. It’s a process known as chain migration.

“When you look at our immigrants (in San Antonio), as compared to Houston and Dallas, they tend to more likely be citizens,” said Potter, who also serves as the state demographer. “They’ve been here, lived here longer and have been contributing to the economy.”

Lisa Marie Gomez, president of education and workforce development at the Chamber, said the immigration data provided would help the Chamber of Commerce deal with issues from education to income inequality.

“It really does tie very closely to economic development,” Gomez said. “At the Chamber, the heart of our mission is to propel business success. That means for businesses to be successful, we want every part of the community to be successful.”

Kyle Ringo

Kyle Ringo is a freelance journalist based in San Antonio. He has covered business, college athletics, the NBA, NFL and Major League Baseball for numerous publications and websites.