Tag Archives: immigration

Oh, Those Annoying False Narratives

One of the more annoying arguments in the immigration debate is that undocumented immigrants coming to this country take jobs away and have a negative effect on the economy.  These recurring arguments make terrific sound bites and usually appeal to the emotional and uninformed voter, especially during hard economic times.  And yet these are the false viewpoints that still guide today’s immigration policy debate.

Over the years there have been numerous studies which debunk these false narratives. Here’s another by the Urban Institute.

In short, this study and others demonstrate that immigrants help to fill gaps in our labor market, immigrants complement rather than replace existing workers, and increase, not lower, wages and productivity.

The Urban Institute’s study again helps to quash the notion that immigrants are “stealing” American jobs.  In fact, as the study points out, many low skilled immigrants and native workers aren’t competing for the same jobs.  If this isn’t enough evidence, a recent study by PEW suggests that immigrants are “much more likely than U.S. foreign workers to be self-employed.” From a Latino perspective, immigrants were nearly twice as likely as U.S. born Latinos to be self-employed.  So in other words, the PEW study suggests that immigrants are in fact job creators (aka entrepreneurs) not job takers!

So don’t fall into believing this overused false narrative.

And while it seems that immigration reform won’t happen anytime soon, when it does, let’s hope it’s developed based on facts – not fiction.

We’re All Immigrants

Graphic via Vox.com

A historical look at immigration through a lens of maps.

Later waves of European immigration killed off most of the first Americans (largely through European diseases, which traveled through the Americas much more quickly than European humans did). That set the stage for European Americans to rebrand the United States, in particular (where indigenous populations were almost completely “replaced”), as a “nation of immigrants.” Even today, America is still home to more total immigrants than any other country in the world. In this map, each country’s size is distorted to reflect the size of its immigrant population.

 

Importing Entrepreneurship

Graphic via Inc.com

Adam Bluestein places a dollar figure on the need for comprehensive immigration reform –  the most entrepreneurial group in America are not born here:

Despite accounting for only about 13 percent of the population, immigrants now start more than a quarter of new businesses in this country. Fast-growing ones, too–more than 20 percent of the 2014 Inc. 500 CEOs are immigrants. Immigrant-owned businesses pay an estimated $126 billion in wages per year, employing 1 in 10 Americans who work for private companies. In 2010, immigrant-owned businesses generated more than $775 billion in sales. If immigrant America were a stock, you’d be an idiot not to buy it.

Bluestein chronicles the experience of one Latina, Ruby Polanco, a Honduras-born entrepreneur who was brought to America as a child:

With her mother and two brothers, Polanco lived in Los Angeles, in a 300-square-foot apartment with no kitchen. School, she says, was “very hard on kids who didn’t speak English.” And the convoluted process of obtaining green cards–particularly challenging for immigrants from Central America–added to the family’s sense of insecurity. At 17, Polanco was a pregnant high school dropout, married to a man she’d divorce a year later.

Finally getting her green card, Polanco says, “changed my mentality. In my own crazy mind, I decided I wanted to make myself American, to make this country my country. After many years, I had the right to stay here.” Polanco got a job as a cashier at McDonald’s and eventually became a manager. After getting her GED, she attended community college, and later got a bachelor’s degree in business management.

Since founding a school for makeup artists in 2006, Polanco now has four locations in the Los Angeles area, revenue of more than $2 million, and about 45 employees. Polanco has also become a visible entrepreneurial presence in L.A.’s Hispanic community. “You give a Hispanic woman $5 and she’ll turn it into a million,” she says, “but not a lot of people are investing money and time on these young women.” Polanco hopes she can help other Hispanic women overcome an “illegal” mindset. “Even legal people here think very illegal,” she says. “They think they can only do business in their corner.”

Some cities like Boston are already providing “accelerator” programs to help international entrepreneurs establish themselves in the U.S.