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7
Mar

Builders strongly in support of recruitment tool

E-Verify may at some point be available by phone.

While there's no shortage of jobs immigrants have in the U.S. that enable them to send money to their families back home, a considerable number of foreign nationals work in the construction industry. However, due to circumstances beyond their control, many hiring construction firms have had some difficulty with recruitment due to concerns about their immigration status.

Thanks to the implementation of the E-Verify program, that's become less of an issue.

E-Verify is an internet services that approximately 409,000 employers use, according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, allowing businesses to cross-reference data and determine if immigrants are authorized to work. The program has been so successful that an estimated 1,300 new businesses sign up to use the service each week.

Christopher Gamvroulas, a Salt Lake City home builder and developer, recently testified on behalf of the National Association of Home Builders before a group of legislators serving in the House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security. He indicated that as lawmakers continue to deal with updating immigration laws, a key component of its reform should include E-Verify, which he says is quite user-friendly.

"On the whole, we have found E-Verify to be an efficient system," said Gamvroulas. "Generally speaking, it is easy to use."

At the same time, though, its implementation hasn't been flawless. Gamvroulas then made some recommendations about how the E-Verify system can be used so that it enhances the employer-employee relationship and gives business owners greater flexibility. For example, instead of only allowing employers to use the internet-based system once an applicant starts their job, business owners ought to be able to use it as soon as the candidate agrees to work.

"Allowing us to verify our workers' status the day they accept the job offer will give us more lead time to handle tentative non-confirmations for those who are ineligible to work," said Gamvroulas.

In addition, he suggested that E-Verify be accessible through multiple channels, such as by telephone. Because many construction firms only have a handful of employees and are rarely in the office, the telephone serves as another way the program can be used, such as while on the job site.

Immigrants represent one in every five construction workers
According to a recent analysis conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, approximately 15 percent of the national workforce is comprised of people who were born in a country outside of the U.S. But in the construction industry specifically, the immigrant worker ratio is much higher, accounting for roughly 20 percent of the workforce. Of these, more than half – 54 percent – come from Mexico and one in every four native to either Central America or South America.

E-Verify has received stellar ratings from many business owners that aren't all within the construction field. In a recent poll conducted by USCIS, out of 1,300 randomly selected employers who use the program regularly, customer satisfaction scores averaged 86 on a 100-point scale, with 100 being the highest possible score.

"This customer survey validates the success of our efforts, which we have undertaken in collaboration with the business and labor communities and other key stakeholders," said Alejandro Mayorkas, director of USCIS.

The poll also found that business owners were confident about its accuracy, were more than likely to continue using it for the foreseeable future and expect to recommend its use to other employers.

6
Mar

Quinoa given special recognition by international community

Quinoa is one of the healthiest foods in the world and largely derives from Central and South America.

Whether it's a fad diet or favorite food, it's not unusual for a country or given region to see a certain food suddenly become popular. And one of the latest food crazes is for a high-protein grain called quinoa.

To people who aren't too familiar with the health world, quinoa – which is pronounced "KEEN-wah"- may sound like a food that has only recently become widely talked and consumed. In reality, it's been grown for thousands of years and helped contribute to many developed or developing countries' economic health – the same places U.S.-based immigrants send money to, specifically in Central and South America.

Quinoa is similar in appearance to rice and is traditionally cooked in the same way, mainly by boiling it at a high temperature. However, unlike rice, it's very high in protein, which is unusual for grains. Even more unusual is the fact that it contains the same number of amino acids found in meat sources, which are the building blocks of muscle

An ever increasing number of health professionals are recommending their clients include quinoa into their diets, as studies have shown that it can help people lose weight when it's implemented into a well-balanced meal plan that's complemented with regular exercise. Because of this increased popularity, it has put strains on farmers to produce as much as possible quickly.

Bolivian farmers' stretched to the limit
According to The Associated Press, this has been the case for many Bolivian farmers, who have attempted to stay on top of the high rate of demand by mass producing quinoa in large quantities. Doing so can bring significant returns for the people selling it, as on the open market, the popular health food product is worth more than $3,000 for every 2,000 pounds that are produced.

And international leaders have recently coronated quinoa as one that's worthy of worldwide acclaim. According to the Food and Agriculture Department of the United Nations, 2013 was recently declared as the "International Year of Quinoa.

At the United Nations headquarters in New York City, UN Sec. Gen. Ban Ki-moon made the announcement along with Evo Morales president of Bolivia. Peru President Nadine Heredia – the country where most quinoa is produced – was also in attendance.

"Today we are here to recruit a new ally in the fight against hunger and food insecurity: quinoa," said Graziano da Silva, director general of the FAO.

She added that quinoa is truly unique, not only because it's been around since 1200 AD, but also for its nutritional benefits, prompting many to consider it to be a "superfood," or one that's replete with nutrients. For example, not only does quinoa contain all of the body's essential amino acids but it's also a carbohydrate that's gluten free. Gluten is a type of protein many people are allergic to traditionally found in food containing wheat.

"This has been an extraordinary grain cultural foundation and a staple in the diet of millions of people across the Andes for thousands of years," said Ki-moon. "Quinoa is now ready to receive global recognition."

Another characteristic of quinoa is that it can be grown in a variety of climates. FAO notes that thanks to its adaptability to temperatures, quinoa can grow at sub-freezing temperatures – even as low as 17 degrees Fahrenheit.

The Whole Grain Council has designated quinoa as its "Grain of the Month" for March. There are over 120 different varieties of it, much of which derives from Bolivia and Peru. This has brought a tremendous amount of business for these two South American countries – bringing $87 million in export sales to the respective nations.

26
Feb

Do-it-yourself weddings proving to be latest trend

More people are throwing do-it-yourself weddings to save.

No matter where people live, it seems that nothing these days comes inexpensively, whether it's gas, grocery bills, utility expenses or rent. And what proves to be no exception to this rule is the exorbitant cost of the average wedding.

According to industry statistics, U.S. couples shell out between $19,000 and $32,000 for the average wedding and reception. While weddings are meant to only be a one-time event, many people can justify spending this amount. And while some may have the desire to throw a wedding party that's top-of-the-line, finances can get in the way, especially when people have responsibilities that require them to send money to loved ones.

With this in mind, many people are throwing their own wedding party. Do-it-yourself weddings – or DIY's, as some refer to them as for short – have become increasingly popular in the U.S., as couples are able to cut back on spending while at the same time forming a stronger bond with one another and their friends who may help them organize.

And according to polling data from TheKnot.com, many brides to be take a lot of pride in the things they make. For example, the survey found that the majority of brides implement at least one DIY element into their weddings, whether it's making ceremony programs, party favors or escort cards.

And what they give out isn't just to a few people. The poll also revealed that Iowa and Nebraska residents tend to have some of the biggest weddings, with upwards of 200 people being invited to attend the nuptials and the reception afterward.

DIY weddings are more than just a passing fad. The Knot.com showed that at one time, wedding planners were often frequently hired to set things up and provide soon-to-be newlyweds with a framework for how everything would be planned. But today, less than 20 percent of brides hire a wedding planner, opting either to handle it themselves or share the responsibility with friends and family.

It can be difficult, however, to come up with a theme for a wedding. That's where specialty gift and wedding retailers may be helpful. The Texas-based retailer and seasonal merchandiser Michaels recently released a list of some of the most popular DIY wedding trends in 2013, such as heirloom romance, purple luxe, seaside bliss and events inspired by certain types of art. Of course, there are many merchandisers who specialize in weddings throughout the U.S., and a quick internet search will likely yield results for how to get in touch with them.

Average engagement ring nearly $6,000
Here are a few other statistics that suggest DIY weddings may be the best option for finances. The Knot.com revealed that the average engagement ring today costs about $5,850 and weddings that are held in the city are often more expensive than in more rural locations. It's estimated that some of the costliest weddings are held in New York City and Long Island, averaging $57,000 for all of the expenses.

Everyone goes into a wedding confident that the person they're marrying they will be with for the rest of their lives. And as international marriage statistics show, this is often the case for many people in Central and South America. Countries like Brazil, El Salvador, Ecuador and Mexico have fairly successful marriage rates, as the divorce rate for each of these countries is less than one for every 1,000 people. Other Latin American countries with divorce rates below this threshold include Panama and Chile.

6
Feb

Homeownership common among the foreign-born

Homeownership rate is quite high among the foreign-born population in America.

While many immigrants living in the U.S. have been able to send money overseas to their families in recent years, they’ve also been earning enough to put money down on a home of their own, recent statistics reveal.

According to the latest numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau, more than half of foreign-born U.S. residents – 52 percent – owned their very own property in 2011, the latest year for which data is available. This contrasts with about a 67 percent homeownership rate for U.S. residents and citizens who were born in the country.

While the rate of homeownership was high among all foreign-born residents, it’s particularly common among individuals who’ve naturalized. The Census report notes that foreign-born residents who’ve gone through the naturalization process were more likely to be homeowners, as approximately two-thirds of them could be classified as owner-occupiers. The rate of homeownership among non-citizens, meanwhile, was 34 percent.

Elizabeth Grieco, chief of the foreign-born population branch at the Census, indicated that homeownership is something virtually every American hopes to achieve at some point in their lives and it’s clear that those who came here from overseas have similar aspirations.

“Homeownership is a goal shared by many residents of the United States, both native- and foreign-born, citizen and noncitizen,” said Grieco. “For immigrants in particular — who maintain nearly one in seven households in the U.S. – making the transition from renter to homeowner represents a significant investment in the United States.”

Lengthy stays increase likelihood of homeownership
And it appears as though that the longer immigrants have been in the U.S., the more likely it is that they wind up purchasing a property eventually.  For example, among foreign-born householders that came to the U.S. 33 years ago, approximately 75 percent owned their own residence as opposed to rented. Meanwhile, among individuals who have lived in the U.S. in the past 13 years, about 25 percent owned rather than rented.

There were also some disparities when it comes to where immigrants lived. Among foreign-born householders who live in the Northeast, the rate of homeownership was above the 52 percent average in parts of New York and Pennsylvania. In fact, throughout much of New Hampshire, the foreign-born homeownership rate was in excess of 60 percent.

According to the Immigration Policy Center, there are about 69,500 immigrants who live in the Granite State, 54 percent of whom are naturalized.

There was a tremendous amount of variability from one state to the next outside of the Northeast. For example, New Mexico’s homeownership rate among foreigners was in excess of 60 percent, but it was below 40 percent in Washington, D.C. 

There was also some level of unpredictability for homeownership among foreign-born householders who originated from certain parts of the world. For instance, the rate of owner-occupied status was under 40 percent among households headed by someone who was born in Africa, which contrasts with 66 percent of Europeans.

The Census Bureau’s statistics coincide with those released by the National Association of Realtors this past June. In its Profile of International Home Buying Activity, NAR notes that residential purchases among the foreign-born totaled $82.5 billion between March 2011 and 2012, up from $66.4 billion when contrasted with the same 12-month span the previous year.

International buyers represented the largest portion of real estate purchases in states where the immigrant population is high, including Florida, California, Texas and Arizona, NAR numbers show.

6
Feb

Mexico a leading nation in the green-living movement

More people are biking in Mexico to help cut down on carbon emissions.

When Latinos send money to Mexico, they are transferring money to a country that’s increasingly becoming a global leader in environmental sustainability.

According to Bloomberg, Mexico is one of a handful of countries that has made significant strides toward improving the world’s environment by passing legislation that help reduce the carbon footprint nations leave behind from everyday living.

In a recent statement emailed to the news source from the Globe International Alliance of Lawmakers, Mexico was listed as one of 33 countries that’s made considerable headway toward cutting carbon production and increasing the efficiency of man-made technologies such as industrial products and vehicles.

Christiana Figueres, a United Nations diplomat, said that real change can only came through policy and Mexico – along with other industrialized nations – helps make this change a reality.

“The clean revolution we need is being carried forward by legislation,” said Figueres, according to Bloomberg. “Domestic legislation is critical because it is the linchpin between action on the ground and the international agreement.”

The Globe International Alliance of Lawmakers additionally noted that of all the nations that made environmental improvements to policy last year, Mexico serves as a “standout country.” Among the initiatives taken include creating a law that requires companies to reduce carbon production by 30 percent between now and 2020.

Other nations that the Globe says made significant headway in improving environmentally friendly standards in 2012 were Australia, India, Indonesia, South Africa, Brazil, Chile and El Salvador, Bloomberg reports.

Traffic major contributor to carbon emissions
Mexico hasn’t always held the distinction as being among the nations most environmentally responsible. According to a 2011 report in National Geographic magazine, residents of Mexico’s capital – Mexico City – described the commute there as one of the “most painful” they’ve ever experienced, primarily due to the significant number of traffic jams, accidents and carbon dioxide emissions from running engines.

But in the short time since then, the country’s capital has been awarded with the Sustainable Transport Award from the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy.

Walter Hook, chief executive officer of the ITDP, said that the improvements observed in the past 12 months in Mexico City are as stark as night and day.

“Mexico City was like a patient sick with heart disease, its streets were some of the most congested in the world,” said Hook. “In the last year, Mexico City extended its great Metrobus BRT system straight through the narrow congested streets of its spectacular historical core, rebuilt public parks and plazas, expanded bike sharing and bike lanes, and pedestrianized streets.”

He added that Mexico’s capital city is once again a vital part of the country’s future growth and development.

Recent previous winners winners of the Sustainable Transport Award include Medellin, Colombia; San Francisco in the U.S.; Guangzhou, China and Ahmedabad, India.

Some of the most impressive elements of Mexico City earning the award – in addition to the more environmentally sustainable laws that have been put in place in Mexico at large – stem from how densely populated the country and city is. Approximately 115.2 million people live in Mexico, according to the latest estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau, and 20 million of that total live in the city’s capital. And as the Christian Science Monitor points out, one out of every four Mexico City residents owns a car.

Yet despite this, officials are confident that the Mexican people will commit to environmentally sustainable living practices, accomplishing the goal of a 30 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2020.

31
Jan

Super Bowl: America’s World Cup

More than half the country will be in front of their televisions watching the Super Bowl on February 3.

As anyone who’s relocated from another country to the U.S. knows, futbol is not as popular in America as it is in their part of the world. While what those in the States refer to as soccer does have a devoted following, it’s nowhere near as big a sport as it is in Latin America and most of Europe.

That’s not to suggest that the U.S. citizens aren’t wild about sports that you play with your feet – it’s just their preferred brand has a ball that’s shaped differently and strapped with white laces.

Similar to the World Cup for soccer, professional football has its own championship known as the Super Bowl. Each year right around this time, most of the country watches the sporting event, which for the 2012-13 season takes place on February 3, between the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens.

Some of the statistics detailing just how popular the event is provides a glimpse into America’s football-crazed culture.

The viewership of the Super Bowl may be the best indicator of how many people take part in the annual event. For example, last year alone, Super Bowl XLVI between the New England Patriots and New York Giants broke television records, with nearly 167 million people throughout the country watching the three hour game, according to Nielsen Media. That’s more than 50 percent of the American population. It marked the fifth straight year that that year’s Super Bowl became the most-watched televised event, according to the National Football League.

Advertisers spend millions for commercials during Super Bowl
Because so many watch the gridiron action, advertisers pay top dollar to air 30-second commercials in an effort to gain a potential customer’s business. According to John Bogusz, executive vice president of sports sales for CBS, the television network that aired the Super Bowl, advertisers spent as much as $3.5 million for a half-minute commercial. And for this year’s game, the average cost will likely be north of $4 million. Some of the most common advertisers have worldwide representation. In fact, when immigrants send money overseas to their family, their kids and spouses may spend their money on many of the products that these companies promote, such as cars made by Volkswagen, candy made by Mars and soft drinks produced by Coca-Cola and Pepsi.

Many immigrants who choose to relocate to the U.S. do so for the business climate. And the Super Bowl is a major contributor for businesses of various types. According to Rockport Analytics, spending that derives from watching the big game helps produce more than 5,500 jobs each year, contributing nearly $180 million to employer payrolls.

Immigrants have had their influence on the Super Bowl, not only among those watch but also those who are actually in the NFL and have a chance to play in the yearly event that’s hosted by a different city each year. For instance, Mat McBriar, punter for the Philadelphia Eagles, is originally from Australia. Igor Olshansky, a defensive tackle for the Miami Dolphins, was born in Ukraine and moved to the U.S. with his family when he was 8. And former Arizona Cardinals guard Rolando Cantu hails from Mexico. He now works in the front office for the team.

Football may be a ways away from catching up to futbol among the Latino community, but it is making headway. Recently, the Dallas Morning News reported about the popularity of American-style football, with some of the biggest fans rooting for the Dallas Cowboys. The paper notes that the NFL opened offices in Mexico back in 1998 and has since made a concerted effort to market itself to the Latino community.

24
Jan

One-quarter of U.S. companies will hire in 2013

2013 will be a year that many U.S. companies will spend devoted to hiring more people.

After years of being in a dead-end job or earning a wage that prevents them from taking care of their families, many people have resolved to make 2013 a year that they take the steps needed to immigrate to the U.S. And as a recent report suggests, it’s a good year in which to send money home to their families from there, as the job forecast in the country is stellar.

According to a recent report released by job listing website CareerBuilder, many employers within the U.S. intend to increase their staffing levels this year. Approximately one in every four employers in the country say they want to bring more people on board so that they can increase their business productivity.

Much of this optimism may stem from the economy showing modest improvements. The U.S. Census Bureau recently revealed that the unemployment rate stayed at 7.8 percent in December. In the final months of 2012, the jobless rate stayed below 8 percent, a level that the rate was above for most of the past several years.

Matt Ferguson, CEO of CareerBuilder, indicated that some of the least favorable job forecasts come out of Western Europe. Just 19 percent of employers in Italy expect to recruit more in 2013, with as many as 33 percent of companies intending to slash their staff levels. Other European nations whose companies predict hiring will be limited include France, Germany and the United Kingdom.

He added that there’s no real continuity in deciphering which companies from the various parts of the country will be hiring or firing.

“The job outlook presents varying degrees of growth and deceleration as governments and businesses strive to rebuild and expand and deal with large deficits,” said Ferguson. “The overall hiring picture is improving, but companies will remain watchful as they navigate headwinds and maneuver through somewhat precarious economic terrain.”

Ferguson also stated that the sluggishness with which many European companies intend to hire largely derives from the sovereign debt crisis this part of the world has experienced. Countries like Greece and Spain have had to cutback on various entitlement programs due to budget shortfalls.

Great time to be in sales
Meanwhile, with many U.S. companies expected to hire more, CareerBuilder points out which sectors will be the most likely to post ‘help wanted’ signs online, in print and anywhere else job openings are advertised. Domestic companies in sales, information technology and customer service are the major markets that look to expand their payrolls in the next 12 months. Sales was a theme among the world’s 10 largest economies, as six of them gave indications that this sector is looking for qualified candidates.

Financial experts say that the rate with which companies hire could do wonders for the nation’s economy by putting more people back to work and improving the country’s gross domestic product.

Some states have already witnessed economic recovery. According to three new reports from the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, the Migration Policy Institute and the University of Arkansas, the Natural State is one of those places in which economic conditions have vastly improved.

Results from the reports show that Arkansas – a state whose nickname also happens to be the Land of Opportunity – witnessed a net gain of $3.4 billion in earnings. Much of this derived from immigrants, as on a per capita basis, immigrant contributions were greater than the services they received.

Immigrants also fill many of the state’s most important employment positions. Between 2008 and 2010, nearly one in every five Arkansas physicians was an immigrant. Sixteen percent of construction workers, 13 percent of manufacturers and 9 percent of agricultural workers were also immigrants.

24
Jan

Pathway to citizenship supported by majority of Americans

There's widespread agreement that immigrants should be given a pathway to citizenship.

While there is some disagreement about how unauthorized immigrants should be assimilated into the United States, there appears to be widespread concurrence that they at the very least deserve a pathway to citizenship.

According to a recent poll commissioned jointly by two public policy interest groups that favor opposing sides of the political spectrum, more than half of the 1,000 respondents polled said that they were in favor of immigrants being granted a pathway to naturalization.

Speaking to an assembly of reporters about the poll, National Immigration forum member Jeb Bush Jr., son of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Sr., said it’s promising to see that Democrats and Republicans are largely like-minded on the issue of a citizenship pathway.

“Hopefully [lawmakers] have this type of data to … allow them to say listen, this is an issue that’s great for our country, people support it around the country, it’s good for the economy, it’s good for border security,” said Bush, according to the Huffington Post.

There was also a considerable amount of unity on immigration, in general, being a good thing for the country. When asked about immigration being a good or bad thing, nearly two-thirds of respondents indicated they thought it was overwhelmingly positive.

However, these same respondents didn’t think the U.S. immigration system was operating very well. Nearly half of the poll’s participants thought immigration needed to be revamped completely. Only 2 percent of adults thought the current system was “working very well.”

Though important, immigration reform still not priority
Despite respondents’ general sense that immigration reform needed to be addressed and that immigrants do a lot of good for the U.S. economy, there wasn’t a general sense that this issue should take precedent above other important issues for the federal government. The poll found that only 11 percent of men and women labeled fixing the country’s immigration system as a “very high priority.” At the same time, few thought it was a “very low priority,” as approximately one in every 10 indicated as such. The overwhelming majority – 77 percent – thought amending the immigration system was a medium or high priority.

Many legislators have given indications that 2013 ought to be a year in which immigration reform is furthered. The State of the Union address is slated for the early part of February and many political observers say that President Barack Obama will likely devote a portion of this speech to outlining what he hopes to do in the year ahead and how legislators can help.

Many legislators have given their positions in immigration, including those who some suspect could run for president in 2016. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, one of three Hispanics that serves in the Senate – the others being Ted Cruz from Texas and Robert Menendez of New Jersey – recently gave this thoughts and opinions on what he would do to reform the system so working people can continue to send money home to their families. And according to the Washington Post, his policies align with the general public’s, in that he supports a pathway to citizenship. The editorial board for the newspaper said that the Senate Republican’s intentions largely mesh with Democrats on principle. Where there’s contrast is how this pathway should be constructed. In other words, there’s some division on the details of this pathway.

However, one detail that Rubio and other lawmakers are eye-to-eye on is making more visas available for people who work in industries that the country needs, such as technology, engineering and the sciences.