The Heart of Nashua with Joan Stylianos: New Hampshire's immigration story

Although only about 6 percent of Granite State residents are immigrants, those immigrants continue to play a key role here, especially in the largest cities of Manchester, Nashua and Concord.

Republican or Democrat, more often than not, we agree on the basic premise:

“Nearly all Americans have ancestors who braved the oceans — liberty-loving risk takers in search of an ideal — the largest voluntary migrations in recorded history… Immigration is not just a link to America’s past; it’s also a bridge to America’s future.”

— George W. Bush

“Our attitude toward immigration reflects our faith in the American ideal. We have always believed it possible for men and women who start at the bottom to rise as far as the talent and energy allow. Neither race nor place of birth should affect their chances.”

— Robert F. Kennedy

Obviously, immigration is a sensitive topic these days, and there are a lot of myths about immigrants and the contributions they make to a community, their level of education, how much crime they’re responsible for, and on and on.

I recently learned that in New Hampshire, most of our approximately 75,000 immigrants have come from the following countries: Canada, India, the Dominican Republic, China, and Germany.

I also did some research into how our foreign-born friends assimilate into our urban communities. The American Immigration Council has numbers for New Hampshire, and these facts might surprise some of you.

For instance, 44 percent of immigrants here have obtained a college degree or an advanced degree. And more than half of all immigrants in the state are naturalized U.S. citizens and work in all kinds of occupations, from computer technology to agriculture and the medical industry.

The immigrant entrepreneur is essential to the success of New Hampshire’s economy and our diversity as a state.

In 2015, we can see how those born abroad generated lots of dollars in annual business revenue. There were 5,016 immigrant business owners comprising 6.4 percent of all self-employed New Hampshire residents, and they brought in $154.6 million in business income.

In addition, statistics show that 52.1 percent of immigrants owned a home compared with 70.8 percent of non-immigrants.

And, yes, there are legal and political issues that still matter. In 2014, the American Immigration Council stated that there were approximately 10,000 undocumented immigrants in New Hampshire. Those numbers were even estimated to be higher at 16,490 from the New American Economy immigration report.

And immigrants contribute millions of dollars in taxes each year.

As of 2017, 462 people in the Granite State had applied for DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) protection against deportation. Those DACA recipients contributed an estimated $812,000 in state and local taxes in 2016, according to the American Immigration Council.

Trying to solve illegal immigration is a complex problem, and the political debate goes on.

In the meantime, Nashua Public Library at 2 Court St. is continuing its discussion on immigration and naturalization. There are two free events, and no registration is required.

On Monday, April 2, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will hold an open house. Between 9:30 and 11:30 a.m., you can meet with an officer one-on-one who can answer questions about applying to enter the country or becoming a citizen.

On Thursday, April 12, at 7 p.m., at Immigration 101, get an overview of the immigration process, including the non-immigrant visa approach and how individuals can obtain permanent resident status and naturalization.

Ms. Stylianos is a Nashua native. Her column is published weekly. She can be reached at jtania512@gmail.com.