What Is The State Of Immigrant Incorporation In San Antonio?
San Antonio is among the top U.S. cities working to create a more welcoming environment for immigrants, according to an analysis of immigrant incorporation in the 100 largest U.S. cities, but there's room for improvement.
In 2020, the New American Economy Cities Index ranked San Antonio 29th of 100 and first among Texas cities in 2020 for incorporation efforts.
According to Census data, immigrants accounted for 5.2% of the city's 8.2% growth from 2012 to 2017. By 2019, there were an estimated 215,937 foreign-born residents in San Antonio or 14.3% of the total population, up from about 13.5% in 2017.
In contrast to narratives that immigrants are a drain on local resources, the reality is that foreign-born residents make significant economic contributions and play pivotal roles in supporting key industries. Per the City of San Antonio's Immigration Strategic Plan, immigrant households earned a cumulative $4.6 billion in 2017 and contributed more than $1 million in combined federal, state and local taxes that same year.
In their July 2021 report, University of Texas researchers compare San Antonio with 17 peer cities based on demographic, economic, and social similarities. They found that San Antonio excelled in immigrant incorporation areas of "Community," "Economic Prosperity," and "Civic Participation," but fell behind several others for "Government Leadership," "Inclusivity," "Economic Empowerment," "Legal Support," "Job Opportunities," and "Livability."
What do these analyses reveal about San Antonio's foreign-born population, and the caliber and value of immigrant incorporation in the area? Why is incorporation "predicated on social cohesion between both immigrant and native-born populations"?
What are the biggest barriers for immigrants related to health, legal and local government services? What are their most substantial challenges when it comes to education, workforce development, entrepreneurship and civic engagement?
What investments have been made to improve outcomes for immigrants in San Antonio, both long-time residents and recent arrivals, and what more could be done to improve incorporation efforts and results?
- Ruth Wasem, Ph.D., clinical professor of policy practice in the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin and fellow with the Bipartisan Policy Center's Immigration Project
- Tino Gallegos, immigration liaison for the City of San Antonio
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*This interview was recorded on Wednesday, September 1.