Colorado Immigrants Provide Billions in Taxes, Half Are Naturalized Citizens

Report shows large economic and business presence of immigrants

Colorado has had a diverse population since the state’s founding, and the state population is consistently growing. Of our state’s population, a new fact sheet from the American Immigration Council has revealed a window into the background and large economic, societal, educational, linguistic and global diversity of Colorado immigrants.

Almost half of all immigrants in Colorado are naturalized U.S. citizens, according to the factsheet. As of 2018, 45% of the 247,015 immigrants had naturalized, while another 100,000-plus were eligible to become naturalized citizens the year before.

In 2018, 10% of the state population was immigrants. That same year, over 600,000 people were native-born Americans with at least one immigrant parent. Over three-quarters reported speaking English well or very well, according to the factsheet.

Immigrant entrepreneurs “generate a billion dollars in business revenue,” according to the factsheet. Nearly 12% of all self-employed residents of Colorado in 2018 were immigrants, or roughly 42,844 immigrant business owners, which generated $1 billion in business income. In the Denver metro area, approximately one in six business owners is an immigrant, and close to one in eight Colorado workers.

State residents in immigrant-led households across Colorado had a total of over $14 billion in after-tax income spending power in 2018, and paid over $3 billion in federal taxes and $1.5 billion in state and local taxes in 2018. Meanwhile, undocumented immigrants in Colorado paid roughly $272.8 million in federal taxes and over $156 million in state and local taxes that same year. Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients and eligible individuals paid $31.5 million in estimated state and local taxes in 2018, according to the fact sheet.

Immigrants also make up an important part of the state’s labor force — roughly 12%. That equates to approximately 363,714 workers, according to the factsheet.

In the construction industry alone 57,830 workers were immigrants, while in accommodation and food services immigrant workers numbered over 42,000, according to the factsheet. In health care and social assistance immigrant workers totaled 42,061, and 37,547 in manufacturing. In retail trade over 34,000 workers were immigrants.

Further, Colorado is the home of “thousands” of DACA recipients — nearly 14,700 active DACA recipients called Colorado home as of last year, and a total of 56,369 people have received DACA status since 2012, according to the factsheet. 

But of all those immigrants eligible for DACA in the state, only 64% applied in 2019. “An additional 6,000 residents of the state would satisfy all but the educational requirements for DACA, and fewer than a thousand would become eligible as they grew older,” according to the fact sheet. 

In terms of education, the immigrants of Colorado are across the board. Almost 30% of all adult immigrants had a college degree, or further education, in 2018, and 29% had less than a high school diploma. Roughly 19% had some level of college experience, and 22% had a high school diploma.

Going back to 2016, only 3% of the total state population was composed of illegal immigrants, according to the factsheet. At the same time, nearly 190,000 undocumented immigrants comprised almost 34% of the state population.

Between 2010 and 2014, over 276,000 people in the state lived with at least a single undocumented family member, “including 141,705 U.S. citizens.” At this same time, one in 11 U.S. citizen children was living with at least a single undocumented family member, over 110,600 in total.


In 2017, there were 10.5 million unauthorized immigrants nationwide, or roughly 3% of the national population and the majority no longer came from Mexico, according to the Pew Research Center.

“This decline is due mainly to a large drop in the number of new unauthorized immigrants, especially Mexicans, coming into the country. The origin countries of unauthorized immigrants also shifted during that time … and the number rising from Central America and Asia,” the article states.

Just six states held 57% of the nation’s total of illegal immigrants — California, New York, Texas, Florida, New Jersey and Illinois, according to the center. The national civilian workforce included 7.6 million unauthorized immigrants, a decline of 625,000 since 2007.

And in 2017, a “rising share” of unauthorized immigrants had lived in the U.S. for more than a decade, according to Pew. This accounted for roughly 66% of adult unauthorized immigrants, who had spent more than a decade in the States.

The total population of U.S. immigrants in 2017 was “more than fourfold increase since 1960, when only 9.7 million immigrants lived in the U.S.,” according to Pew. 

Nationally, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services naturalized 834,000 new citizens, an eleven-year high in 2019. Over 570,000 individuals were granted lawful permanent resident status, and more than 500,000 petitions for non-immigrant workers were approved and nearly 2.2 million employment authorizations, according to the USCIS website.

In comparison, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Enforcement and Removal Operations officers arrested around 143,000 aliens and removed over 267,000 in 2019. However, while the numbers of those apprehended or “found inadmissible at the border” increased 68% over 2018, the total number of aliens arrested by ICE dropped nearly 10% compared to 2018, according to the ICE website.

—Avery Martinez

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