Since U.S. troops withdrew from Afghanistan, we’ve seen thousands of evacuees pass through the Albuquerque International Sunport, seeking safety and freedom here in the United States. Over the next 18 months, about 200 Afghan evacuees – people who did dangerous work alongside U.S. troops and now fear Taliban reprisals – will settle in our city. I’m thrilled to have them, just as thrilled to see our city welcoming them in.
New Mexico is often called a “tri-cultural” success story – a place where people of European, Hispanic and Native American heritage live together in harmony. In fact, we’ve always been much more than just tri-cultural – the African- and Asian-American communities have been integral to New Mexico for generations, and our community has grown ever richer as people from across the globe have made the Land of Enchantment their home.
All this is especially important today, not only as we do our part to provide a new home to our service members’ allies who are no longer safe in Afghanistan, but also given our nation’s widespread workforce shortages. Foreign-born residents are crucial to easing that strain. According to New American Economy, nearly 70% of our state’s foreign-born population is working age, compared to less than half of our U.S.-born population. As consumers, immigrants add $3.2 billion to our state’s economy, according to the American Immigration Council. As entrepreneurs, they’re responsible for creating almost 19,000 businesses and generating almost $320 million in business income; and as employees, immigrants make up one in eight members of our state’s workforce.
Immigrants and refugees also make up a significant portion of our state’s critical frontline workforce. More than a fifth of our state’s truck drivers are foreign-born, for instance. Given that industry’s massive worker shortage, we need them more than ever. Almost six out of 10 of our farmworkers are immigrants, too, and it’s thanks to their efforts that we have food on our tables as we gather with our loved ones.
New arrivals play an especially vital role in our state’s health care system: about 22% of our state’s doctors were born overseas, along with 7% of our nurses and 10% of our nursing and home-health aides. With our state facing a chronic shortage of health care professionals, and COVID-19 rearing its head once more, these foreign-born caregivers play a vital role in ensuring everyone in Albuquerque can get the medical care they need.
Without a doubt, as Albuquerque rebuilds from the pandemic, hard-working, entrepreneurial immigrants and refugees will be part of our recovery and the future we build together as New Mexicans. That’s why I’m so proud to see nonprofits like South West Organizing Project and Women’s Global Pathways setting up refugees with jobs sewing face-masks and cooking food for our city’s homeless residents. It’s why I’m proud of local businesses like EverGuard Roofing, which recently offered to provide construction jobs for Afghan evacuees. And it’s why I’m proud of groups like the Asian Business Collaborative, which helps immigrant entrepreneurs launch businesses and create jobs for everyone.
This kind of community spirit is truly Albuquerque’s superpower. We’re lucky to have an ethic of inclusivity baked into our history. As far back as 1600s, our state was a crossroads for Europeans, Mexican indigenous peoples and Native Americans who have lived here since time immemorial; three centuries later, we have continued to build a welcoming city, giving shelter to refugees from Central America and countries around the globe. Today, we’re providing refuge and new opportunity for a few hundred Afghan allies and their families.
This legacy has made our entire city stronger, more competitive and better able to cope with whatever challenges arise. As we look toward the new year, let’s show all our new arrivals why Albuquerque is such a wonderful city to call home.