Prep for Florida’s Dem and GOP Debates: Immigrants in the Sunshine State

Results are in from yesterday’s primaries in Idaho, Hawaii, Michigan, and Mississippi, and today the presidential hopefuls head south to the Sunshine State for more debating. Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders square off tonight at Miami Dade College (#DemDebate), while the remaining Republican candidates will face each other tomorrow evening at the University of Miami (#GOPDebate).

Because of its close proximity to the Caribbean and Central America, Florida has historically been a major entry point for immigrants, and evidence of their cultural influences can be seen throughout the state. The American Community Survey found that in 2013, nearly 3.7 million Florida residents—almost one in five people in the state—were born abroad.

Learn more about Florida’s immigrant community before tuning in to the debates:


Although they account for less than 20 percent of the state’s population, immigrants in recent years have founded almost 37 percent of all new businesses in Florida. These immigrant-owned businesses generate over $13.3 billion annually.


In coming years, Florida is expected to face a shortage of medical professionals, a looming crisis for a state that already has a sizable elderly population. To ease this coming shortage, immigrants are already helping to fill some of these labor gaps: In 2012, over a third of doctors in Florida had graduated from a foreign medical school, for example.

Contributions to entitlement programs

Foreign-born Hispanics in Florida contributed $5.5 billion to Social Security and $1.3 billion to Medicare in 2013.

STEM fields

In 2013, 39 percent of students earning a Master’s or PhD degree in a STEM field from one of Florida’s research-intensive universities were foreign-born. Two out of three students earning engineering PhDs in Florida in recent years were also non-citizens. 

To learn more, check out our interactive map, which shows how immigrants impact state economies across the country.

About NAE

New American Economy is a bipartisan research and advocacy organization fighting for smart federal, state, and local immigration policies that help grow our economy and create jobs for all Americans. More…