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Supporting Refugees and Immigrants in Lancaster

CEO Sam Bressi shared the following remarks at the Lancaster Chamber’s State of the County event on January 25. 

The story of Lancaster County’s community and culture cannot be told without telling the story of immigrants and refugees. They have been a fundamental part of Lancaster’s community since its creation.

As early as 1732, Conrad Beissel, a German Protestant who was banned from his homeland for his religious beliefs, arrived in Lancaster and founded the Ephrata Cloister. Throughout the 18th century, members of the Mennonite, Quaker, Lutheran and Jewish faiths also arrived seeking religious freedom. Other ethnic groups such as the Scots-Irish, displaced by war and famine, arrived in Lancaster County in droves, to build a better life.Today, we proudly welcome refugee families from the Congo, Bhutan, Somalia, Syria and many countries around the world.

Their American dream is the same as it ever was – Freedom & Opportunity.
Last year, the Lancaster Chamber partnered with a nonpartisan group called New American Economy to study economic impact of these new Americans in Lancaster County. What we found runs counter to much of the current rhetoric around immigration in America.

We learned that:
— Foreign-born residents have higher levels of education than U.S.-born citizens in Lancaster County, filling critical employment needs at all levels of our economy.
— Immigrants here are more likely to be self-employed or start their own businesses.
— Immigrants are responsible for creating or retaining more than 1,000 manufacturing jobs in Lancaster.

As a group , immigrants contribute over 1.3 billion dollars annually to the gross domestic product of Lancaster County.That translates to $52 million in state and local taxes and $103 million in federal taxes paid.
It also brings $440 million in annual spending power to our community.

I’d like to urge each of you to read the report, “New Americans in Lancaster.”

Welcoming new Americans — immigrants and refugees — is part of our community’s DNA.
We welcome people because it is an important piece of what has made Lancaster County strong and resilient.
We’ve always been welcoming because it is the right thing to do. But it’s not a charitable act because these individuals are not “takers” from of our community’s wealth and resources.

Our welcoming is a smart investment, because new Americans, new Lancastrians,  are in fact, supporters, additives and creators of wealth and resources right here in Lancaster County.

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