Data aims to show impact of immigrants on Pittsburgh region

Elected officials including Mayor Bill Peduto will discuss the research at an event tonight at the Fetterman’s house.

Dozens march in Beechview for a Day Without Immigrants

Dozens march in Beechview for a Day Without Immigrants

Jasmine Goldband
Sarah Anne Hughes

Gisele Fetterman described the first time she was called for jury duty as a dream come true.

That’s not sarcasm.

“I felt that’s when I would really be American,” said Fetterman, who was born in Brazil.

When she showed up, Fetterman said she “was the only person excited to be there in a room full of Americans.”

“So I say that often I’m even more American than most Americans,” she said with a laugh, “because I was so proud and excited to go to jury duty.”

Fetterman came to this country as a child from Brazil and was undocumented for more than a decade. She’s “very open” about her immigration story, as she believes that people support immigration once you put a human face on the issue.

“We’re simply here, and we want to contribute,” Fetterman, co-founder of 412 Food Rescue and Braddock’s Free Store, said. “We want to be a part of this story.”

Tonight, Fetterman and her husband, Braddock Mayor John Fetterman, will host an event at their home to release new data on the economic benefits of immigration from the Partnership for a New American Economy.

“This is the first time that immigrant contributions have been researched and documented to this level,” she said of the partnership’s Map the Impact project, which was updated this week with breakdowns by Congressional district and metro area.

The map includes by-community information like taxes paid by immigrants and their spending power — “really detailed information that further makes the case on why we need compassionate immigration reform,” she said.

In addition to the Fettermans, Mayor Bill Peduto and Christian Associates of Southwest Pennsylvania Executive Director Rev. Liddy Barlow are scheduled to speak at tonight’s event. There will be refreshments from Istanbul Sofra and a performance by Brazilian singer Kenia.

Fetterman said they’ve received a lot of RSVPs for tonight’s event. A public reception begins at 6 p.m. following a press conference.

The Partnership for a New American Economy is a bipartisan group of mayors and business executives that seeks to cut down on “illegal immigration” while also creating a path to legal status for people who are undocumented in the U.S. Its co-chairs include former mayors Michael Bloomberg and Michael Nutter, Disney President and CEO Bob Iger and News Corp Chairman Rupert Murdoch.

Peduto and Istanbul Sofra owner Adnan Hilton Pehlivan touted county-specific research on the benefits of immigration from the partnership last year.

She said she hopes to counter President Donald Trump’s executive orders and other anti-immigrant actions from elected officials with the information.

“If we have to make the case through numbers, anything that helps, that’s what we want to do,” she said.

Tonight’s event is also meant to show that Pittsburgh is a community that supports immigration. “We want these people here,” she said. “We’re all in this together. Hopefully that’s the sentiment that travels above.”

Check out the partnership’s data for the Pittsburgh metro area and Congressional District 14 below.

Pittsburgh metropolitan area: 1

  • Immigrant residents: 80,639
  • Immigrant share of population: 3.4 percent
  • Immigrant taxes paid (2014): $918.4 million
  • Immigrant spending power (2014): $2.3 billion
  • Immigrant entrepreneurs: 4,409

Congressional District 14 2 :

  • Immigrant residents: 35,069
  • Immigrant share of population: 5.0 percent
  • Immigrant taxes paid (2014): $279.7 million
  • Immigrant spending power (2014): $766.9 million
  • Immigrant entrepreneurs: 1,049
  • Eligible immigrant voters: 13,767
  • Registered immigrant voters: 7,343