OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Immigration helps Oklahoma’s economy in more ways than one.
Rich Barnard, president of Tio Chuy Auto Sales, employs several workers born outside the United States.
Employees play a role in all aspects of his business.
“We have employees born in South America, Central America and Mexico who work up there in administration and accounting, loan servicing and sales and all kinds of different areas,” Barnard said.
Tio Chuy’s is an Oklahoma City dealership. Barnard said many Hispanics from Oklahoma come to the shop to ask questions and buy vehicles.
He said nearly 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 is an opportunity to find the best workers.
“I have a guy who works in our accounting department who has a degree from South America in accounting and just accounting numbers,” Barnard said.
The business owner is not an immigrant himself, but has spent time and resources to build Oklahoma’s immigrant community.
The Oklahoma Policy Institute reports that the majority of immigrant workers are in housekeeping and maintenance, nursing, and other health care occupations.
Barnard said there is also a need for more workers, including automotive technicians.
“I think if we started the conversation about how many visas are issued each year, how many we need, and the economic impact of bringing workers to work in places like chip factories or battery technology, manufacturing and all those things here in the United States, in in this part of the world or in this part of the country, I think that would suit us best,” Barnard said.
The American Immigration Council found that nearly half of Oklahoma’s immigrants are from Mexico.
David Castillo is president of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
He said that of the total Hispanic community, Mexicans make up over 90 percent.
The agricultural industry is another field many immigrants enter when they arrive in Oklahoma, Castillo said.
According to the chamber president, Oklahoma is one of the fastest growing states for Hispanic immigration.
“I believe that immigration is good. I mean, this country was founded on immigration,” Castillo said. “They want to establish themselves in Oklahoma. They spend money in Oklahoma, they pay taxes in Oklahoma. And so it’s a win for everyone.”
He added that Oklahoma’s values align well with those of Hispanic families.
“The cost of living is so low here,” Castillo said. “It’s important, especially in the Latino community for families.”
The American Immigration Council says the benefits go both ways: Immigrant spending power in Oklahoma is approximately $5.3 billion and they pay about $1.9 billion in taxes each year.