PA Democrats Push For Legislation To Establish “Office Of New Pennsylvanians”

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (Erie News Now) – Pennsylvania ranks 12th in the nation in foreign-born residents, with over 930,000 immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers who call the commonwealth home. 

Wednesday, members of the Welcoming PA Caucus unveiled House bill 2173, which establishes “The Office of New Pennsylvanians” to assist the transition for those residents.

The office would be tasked with attracting, retaining, and embracing immigrants from across the world.

“In 2018, immigrants made up 9% of our workforce and paid more than $3 billion in taxes,” said HB 2173 sponsor, Rep. Joe Hohenstein (D-Philadelphia).

Immigrant economic contribution and population are both growing in Pennsylvania, even in areas you might not expect.

“Center for Rural Pennsylvania indicated that Latino growth in rural Pennsylvania was at 88%,” said Sen. Sharif Street (D-Philadelphia). Sen. Street said the percentage is based on recent census data.

Now, the Welcoming PA Caucus is looking to gain support for “The Office of New Pennsylvanians.”

“The office would serve as that point of contact for other state agencies, the media, immigrant organizations, and the public about immigration issues in our state,” said Hohenstein.

Advocates say the office would help alleviate burdens faced by those transitioning into life in Pennsylvania.

Stephanie Sun is the Executive Director of the Governor’s Advisory Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs. She says immigrants have a lot to offer.

“Some people say immigrants come to take. I want to say, immigrants come to give,” said Sun.

“America is, and has always been, an amalgamation of the best of what the world has to offer,” said Sen. Street.

Locally, in cities like Erie, immigrants earned over $115 million in 2019.

“Of that amount, $14.5 million went to federal taxes, $12.4 million went to state and local taxes and $88.3 million was left in spending power,” said Niken Carpenter, the New American Liaison for the City of Erie.

Niken adds that entrepreneurial ambition is good for the local economy as well.

“Immigrants made up 4.9% of business owners in Erie County, despite making up 4.1% of the population,” said Carpenter.

House bill 2173 currently sits with the House State Government Committee for consideration.


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