OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Immigration helps Oklahoma’s economy in more ways than one.
Rich Barnard, President of Tio Chuy’s Auto Sales, employs several workers born outside of the United States.
The employees play a role in all aspects of his business.
“We have South American and Central and Mexican born employees that work upstairs in administration and accounting and loan servicing and sales and all sorts of different areas,” said Barnard.
Tio Chuy’s is a dealership in Oklahoma City. Barnard said that many Hispanic Oklahomans come into the shop to ask questions and buy vehicles.
He said that almost every employee is bilingual, which helps with business transactions and community relations.
Barnard does not see immigration as a problem for the United States or Oklahoma.
For him, it’s an opportunity to find the best employees.
“I’ve got a guy working in our accounting department that has a degree from South America in accounting and accounting’s just numbers,” said Barnard.
The business owner is not an immigrant himself, but has spent time and resources to build up the community of newcomers in Oklahoma.
The Oklahoma Policy Institute reports that a majority immigrant workers are in housekeeping and maintenance, nursing, and other health care professions.
Barnard said there is also a need for more blue-collar work, including automotive technicians.
“I think if we started the conversation at how many visas are granted every year, how many do we need, and the economic impact of bringing workers over to work in places like chip plants or battery technology plants, manufacturing and all of those things here in the United States in this part of the world or this part of the country, I think we would be best served in doing that,” said Barnard.
The American Immigration Council found that nearly half of immigrants in Oklahoma are from Mexico.
David Castillo is the President of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
He said from the total Hispanic community, Mexicans make up over 90 percent.
The farming industry is another area of work many immigrants enter when they arrive in Oklahoma, said Castillo.
For the chamber president, Oklahoma is one of the fastest growing states for Hispanic immigration.
“I believe immigration is good. I mean, this this country was founded on immigration,” said Castillo. “They look to get established in Oklahoma. They spend money in Oklahoma, pay the taxes in Oklahoma. And so it’s a win win for everyone.”
He added that the values of Oklahoma match up well with the values of Hispanic families.
“The cost of living is so low here,” said Castillo. “That’s important, especially in the Latino community for families.”
The American Immigration Council says the benefits go both ways: immigrants’ spending power in Oklahoma is approximately $5.3 billion and they pay around $1.9 billion in taxes each year.