Skip to content

Immigrants continue to buoy America’s economic engine

While immigrants come to the U.S. for other reasons besides economy, for the most part, they do so to improve the economic well-being of their loved ones after making a money transfer. Naturally, these funds give their spouses and children the financial backing they need to satisfy their daily lives, whether they're routine-oriented – such as shopping for weekly groceries – or for the occasional spending splurges on various forms of entertainment.

But as a new study shows, immigrants who work in the U.S. do a great deal of good for the country's finances.

According to its latest report, "Immigration and the American Worker," the Center for Immigration Studies reports that the goods and services the country produces would not be as significant were immigrants not here. For example, the report found that the U.S.' gross domestic product – which is the total value of what the American workforce produces, is 11 percent larger thanks to the immigrant community. Their contributions add an estimated $1.6 trillion to the national GDP on annual basis.

This contribution improves the lives of both those who originate from the U.S. as well as people who are foreign born. When it comes to the impact immigrants' work productivity has on the native-born population specifically, though, this translates to $35 billion each year.

Unauthorized immigrants have also heightened the value of what the U.S. produces each year in the form of goods and services. The report found that between $395 billion and $472 billion is directly attributable to undocumented immigrants.

H-1B visa cap reached in five days
The levels of success that many immigrants have achieved in the U.S. – illustrated by their contribution to the GDP – helps explain why so many people from overseas seek to come to the U.S. so that they can work. And every year, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services makes a special type of visa available to foreign workers so that they can enter the country based chiefly on their skills in a particular profession or trade. These visas are known as H-1B.

Because there are so many people who want to enter the U.S. and a limited number of H-1B visas immigration officials put a cap on how many are distributed, determining who get them on a first come, first served basis. Less than a week after USCIS indicated it would begin the approval and application process for H-1Bs, the 65,000 cap was reached.

In short, this means that those who did not file for a high-skill visa will have to wait an entire year if they want to enter the U.S. through this method. It's also bad news for business owners, many of whom hire from overseas due to some individuals' advanced training in specific fields. They, too, will have to wait until April 2014, when the H-1B process begins anew.

The benefits and popularity of the H-1B visa application process has prompted many legislators and immigration advocates to request that the cap be expanded so that more people can take advantage of it. As noted by the Brookings Institute, bills are currently being considered in Congress that would raise the cap to 115,000. It would then increase or decrease by 20,000 in the subsequent year, depending on the type of demand there was.

The Washington, D.C.-based think tank is in favor of increasing the cap.

"The current immigration reform debate is a great opportunity to overhaul the system and move away from an arbitrary race against time for H-1B visas," said Brookings. "A new method that structures America's future immigration system to better meet the demand for high-skilled workers … will be welcomed by employers and workers alike."


‘Illegal immigrant’ no longer acceptable with The Associated Press

Journalists and reporters often turn to The Associated Press Stylebook as the definitive resource for how to write and report news stories, as there are certain procedures and idiosyncrasies that are unique to news reporting versus traditional writing. They also use this book to assess what terms are and are not appropriate.

And based on a decision of AP executives, one term that is no longer considered permissible is "illegal immigrant."

In a blog posting by the AP's vice president and executive editor, Kathleen Carroll, the news agency explained why it's decided to cease and desist from using the phrase.

"The Stylebook no longer sanctions the term 'illegal immigrant' or the use of 'illegal' to describe a person," said Carroll. "Instead, it tells users that 'illegal' should describe only an action, such as living in or immigrating to a country illegally."

She added that at one time, the term was considered to be the best option when referring to the strict definition of describing an individual from overseas without going through the appropriate protocols and procedures. But because the English language is always evolving, there are a variety of other phrases and usages that more adequately defines people who came to the U.S. in an unsanctioned way, such as "unauthorized immigrant" or "undocumented immigrant."

As journalists no longer use the term 'illegal' in reference to a person, this corroborates what many immigration advocates have said, in that no person is illegal. Instead, only actions can be considered unlawful, and have encouraged reporters to make note of that accordingly in their reportage.

Term offends both immigrants and natives
This development comes at a time in which many people in the U.S. – both those who are naturalized citizens as well as people who originate from overseas – believe the term is offensive. Last year, a nationally representative sample of likely voters, said they thought the phrase was unnecessary. In a Fox News poll that surveyed Latinos exclusively, approximately 50 percent of respondents, many of whom send money to their families back home, said they thought the term was disrespectful and hurtful. Less than one-third thought it was an accurate term and thus OK to use.

"Calling people illegal or an illegal immigrant has become normalized even though it's a term that's inaccurate," Monica Novoa, coordinator of the public campaign "Drop the I-Word," told Fox News Latino last year. "It's anti-immigrant, anti-Latino language that's harmful."

The public awareness event is still in effect and many people have signed the pledge at the campaign's website, promising never to use the phrase when referencing actual people.

The Hispanic and Latino community's quest to rid the American lexicon of the phrase has been a long time coming. It's also had its representation in the world of journalism. Earlier this year, Washington Post reporter Antonio Vargas testified in front of a legislative panel in the U.S. Senate.

"When you inaccurately call me illegal, you not only dehumanize me, you're offending them," said Vargas. "No human being is illegal."

Several lawmakers have indicated that they will make it their personal mission to make the terms use extinct. According to ABC News, legislators like Rep John Conyers of Michigan and Rep. Luis Gutierrez of Illinois are among the public officials who've taken the pledge.

Proponents of banning the term are hopeful that other major news sources, such as the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times, will follow the AP's lead and prohibit the phrase from being used in their copy.


India’s 100 years of filmmaking to be recognized at this year’s Cannes

People who send money to India are making a wire transfer so that their kids and family members can live more comfortably. This comfort is not only materially but also for entertainment, as the film industry is solidly supported by Indians who frequent the theater as they immerse themselves in whatever happens to be showing at the cinema.

At the Cannes Film Festival, India will be saluted for having produced thousands of films over the past 100 years.

Each year in France, theater goers and film industry professionals gather at Cannes to celebrate movies in general and also put a spotlight on upcoming film releases throughout the world. The event usually lasts about a week-and-a-half in May. This year, the Cannes Film Festival starts May 15 and ends May 26.

The film festival has been held for more than 65 years in France, and has taken on various formulations and traditions. For example, in 2011, festival organizers honored Egypt for its contributions to the industry and did the same for Brazil last year. In 2013, India will be saluted.

Theirry Fremaux, general delegate for Cannes, noted that India is in an elite class of countries that have produced some of the film trade's best works.

"The Festival de Cannes is delighted to celebrate one of the most important countries in the world of cinema," said Fremaux. "[It is] a country with a prestigious history and tradition, one whose current day and creative impulses are a perennial example of vitality."

What will no doubt be recognized as having a heavy influence on the film world today is India's "Bollywood" culture. This word combines the "B" in Bombai – which was the former name of the country's capital, Mumbai – and Hollywood, which is also a place, but has become synonymous with film because so many movies are shot and produced in the California city.

At least six Indian films to be showcased
According to entertainment news website BollywoodLife, many soon-to-be released Indian films will be spotlighted, such as "The Music Teacher," produced by Sarthak Dasgupta. The thrust of the movie revolves around a school teacher who is preparing to reacquaint himself with a former student of his for the first time in many years. The question is whether the girl, who has gone on to be quite successful in the music world, will still have the strong feelings for him that she had back when she was his pupil.

Another film that's slated to be showcased is Pratim Gupta's "Ink." This story follows a down-on-his-luck journalist, who through happenstance stumbles on a story that could send the show business world into a tailspin.

Then there's Kvanjit Singh's "Television." BollywoodLife notes that this film documents the experiences of three men who are going through different life stages – one who's about to get married, another who's a single-parent of a 3-year-old boy and a senior that's adjusting to retirement and the struggles that can materialize.

The hope – both among Indian film enthusiasts as well as the movie producers who spend years developing them – is that at least one movie will turn out to be so popular that it becomes world-renowned.

If history is any guide, these and other films have an excellent chance. Several Bollywood films have won prestigious awards over the years, including "Neecha Nagar" in 1946, "Amar Bhoopali" in 1951, "Do Bigha Zamin" in 1954 and "Pather Panchali" in 1955. A more recent film to be bestowed with Cannes Camera d'Or award was "Marana Simhasanam," back in 1999.


Poll: Jobs that require top skills satisfied through immigration reform

Evidenced by rising home values, greater availability of jobs and a steadily declining unemployment rate, the economy is slowly but surely recovering in the U.S. However, a considerable number of Americans believe it could be improving at a more robust pace by enabling businesses to better attract the best employees the world has to offer.

In a recent survey conducted by Zogby Analytics on behalf of the technology firm TechNet, nearly two-thirds of individuals polled said that by reforming certain components of the immigration system, business owners will be able to entice more people who come from overseas to work for them, many of whom may send money to their families back in their native country.

Respondents were particularly receptive to reform for business owners who are in a line of work that requires highly skilled or specially trained workers, such as in the sciences, technology, education or mathematical fields, otherwise known as STEM. In fact, nearly eight in 10 Americans – 77 percent – said that the government needs to commit more invest toward STEM education. More specifically, approximately 60 percent of people in the poll said that the government does not spend what it needs to in providing workers with the resources they need to better take on jobs in the sciences and technological fields.

Rey Ramsey president and CEO of TechNet, noted that American consumers today recognize that there's an abundance of people who live overseas who are more than qualified to fulfill these jobs and one of the best ways of enabling these individuals to access them is by addressing the ease which they can come to the country.

"Americans strongly support smart policies to reform our high skilled immigration system and address the shortage of workers with science, technology, engineering and math skill," said Ramsey. "Most importantly, our citizens are eager for reform and urge Congress to act now."

Delayed immigration reform risks falling behind global competition
Many are worried that failure to reform the immigration system may wind up costing Americans in the long run when it comes to staying ahead of other countries as they make their own economic improvements. For example, the poll found that approximately 43 percent of respondents believe that the country is losing its "innovation edge," saying that the next big invention will likely come from someplace other than the U.S, such as China.

John Zogby, who owns and operates his own polling firm, added that he's witnessed an overwhelming consensus from the public tying innovation to sound immigration policies.

"Americans have adapted to new technologies, see them as the path to growth and prosperity for our future, and favor a wide of policies that support more flexibility in immigration, more focus on technology in our education system, and spending on research that leads to even more innovation," he said.

Currently, people who wish to work in the sciences, or who have specialized skills and expertise, typically turn to H-1B visas in order to come to the country. Recently, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced that it has begun accepting petitions from foreign residents for the 2014 fiscal year. There is a 65,000 cap on how many people will be able to come to the country with this via. However, the first 20,000 people who file a H-1B petition and who have a master's degree or higher will not count against the cap. This behooves prospective workers to file the necessary paperwork as soon as possible.


Minorities saving more for their kids’ future

Whether people send money abroad or to a family member that lives within the U.S., they often do so because they love them and want them to live more comfortably. And as a new study shows, many minorities today are also putting more of their money away for their loved ones to use at a later time so that they won't have to worry about medical expenses once they get older and are in need of care.

The report, which was conducted jointly by the State Farm Center for Women and Financial Services as well as the American College of Financial Services, found that six in 10 women of color save money for retirement, primarily so that they won't be a financial burden for their kids should they become infirm in their latter years.

What was particularly noteworthy was the way in which women are saving and how they saved depending on their ethnic background and economic status. For example, the report found that Asian women who earned more than $75,000 per year made saving more of a priority than did women of the same ethnicity but whose annual salary was less.

This shouldn't suggest, however, that people who earn less aren't just as concerned about saving money for their children once they become adults. The poll also found that regardless of personal economic circumstances, women found a variety of ways in which to save money.

Sophia Duffy assistant professor of employee benefits at The American College, noted that defined benefit company pension plans are becoming less frequent number, mainly because employer are cutting them in order to save on costs.

"Personal savings must be encouraged if individuals are to achieve financial security in retirement," said Duffy.

Cost of living heavy load for many minorities
Another potential reason for why many minorities are putting an emphasis on saving for their kids may stem from the cost of living. According to a newly released report, which was conducted jointly by the Poverty and Race Research Action Council as well as the National Low Income Housing Coalition, close to 50 percent of today's African American and Hispanic families face challenges when it comes to housing costs.

Based on cost of living calculations and average salaries, NLIHC indicates that someone who who works at least 30 to 40 hours per week has to earn approximately $19 an hour if they want to rent out a two-bedroom apartment affordably. Housing experts say that, ideally, no more than one-third of an individual's salary should go toward rent costs.

However, approximately 48 percent of African American families do not have the type of income they would need to fulfill this ideal. A similar percentage – 46 percent – of Hispanics face similar financial straits.

Phillip Tegeler, president of the PRRAC, indicated that these results are truly sobering and ought to send a message to legislators that more needs to be done to support hard working Americans who are making less than they're worth.

"Finding affordable housing is a challenge for all low-income Americans, but our analysis demonstrates it is even more burdensome for families of color," said Tegeler. "This should be a wake-up call for the administration and Congress that addressing housing costs, and creating more affordable housing, must be a national priority."

The NLIHC recently released a separate report on how many hours the average person has to work in order to afford an apartment. Some of the best places were in the Midwest – such as North Dakota, South Dakota and Kansas – as low rent rates enabled renters to do more with their money while spending less time on the job.


Colombia city receives international recognition for its innovation

People who send money to Colombia to provide for their families are transferring their money to a country with a city recently deemed the most innovative in the entire world.

In partnership with The Urban Land Institute, global banking firm Citi and business publication The Wall Street Journal declared Medellin, Colombia to be the winner of its annual "City of the Year" competition.

Each year, these organizations field hundreds of thousands of entries from people around the world who submit suggestions for the city they believe to be the most innovative, based on the urban centers that are located in the metro area. The list was narrowed down to 200 cities after organizers for the contest evaluated the various cities' characteristics, such as how efficiently land was used, investments made in economic development, educational successes and human capital investments, infrastructure as well as the potential for future growth.

After much debate, Medellin earned the title, narrowly beating out Tel Aviv and New York City.

Anthony Cenname, publisher of The Wall Street Journal Magazine, said Medellin's recognition as a paragon of innovation and improvement is richly deserved.

"Medellin stands today as an example for many cities around the world, because despite having lived very dark and difficult times 20 years ago, [they] have been undergoing a true metamorphosis," said Cenname. "Going from pain and fear to hope, and now from hope to be a place filled with life, the city has known how to innovate in every step, both in social programs, urban developments or the combination of both and this has been key in the success of this process."

Bernardo Norena, president of Citi Colombia, added that the City of the Year designation does wonders for Medellin's people, as it may encourage more investors to devote their resources toward the city, providing a better life for the country's citizens overall.

Medellin Mayor Anibal Gaviria couldn't be happier about Medellin's coronation, stating recently that the recognition is a "reason for joy on the part of every one of the 2.5 million inhabitants of our city," according to BBC News.

Medellin now seen in more positive light
At one time, Medellin received a considerable amount of press coverage due to having a high crime and drug rate. In 2012, The New York Times published a piece on the annual homicide rate in Medellin, which 20 years ago was 381 for every 100,000 people – one of the highest rates in the world.

But city organizers have been able to deal with the crime issue by implementing sweeping reforms that have enabled officials to crack down on crime and bring a greater sense of safety to the city's 2.7 million inhabitants, according to Census data.

Perhaps the best indication of its safety is how popular the nightlife has become in Medellin. Author and New York Times contributor Henry Alford recently wrote an article about his experience in the metro area that locals like to call "Ciudad de la Eterna Primavera," or the City of the Eternal Spring. He noted that area bars and restaurants were bustling with people, many of whom had their eyes glued to mounted television sets that were showing a soccer game being televised. Similar to what football is in America, soccer is to Colombia, as it's a passion for many of the city's people.

Restaurant dining is similarly popular with eateries like Carmen, Bonuar and Ajiacos y Mondongos providing a variety of local favorites like tripe soup, ajiaco and cazuela con frijoles, or beef with beans.


Injury often not enough to squelch immigrants’ work ethic, report suggests

Thanks to their work ethic and determination, few things can get in between an immigrant and his ability to send money home to his family, as sickness, poor weather and physical ailments often prove to be no match for their drive and perseverance.

But every now and then, physical disabilities – which may have occurred while on the job – prevent even the most persistent person from being able to head to work on a given day.

With this in mind, the New Hampshire Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health recently released the results of a poll, detailing immigrants and their work safety based on the responses from 366 immigrants, two-thirds of whom responded to the survey.

In addition to getting an idea of how many immigrants have been injured while on the job, the report also provided information on the jobs foreign-born workers are taking on in the Granite State. While immigrants are found in virtually every employment sector, the report found that they were usually in factory sectors, as well as cleaning services, food services, farming, construction and retail.

While all jobs carry a certain level of risk, as accidents can occur even in positions that aren't especially dangerous, a fairly small percentage of immigrants indicated that they were injured while on the job. Of the 10 percent of respondents who said that they had been injured, the most common injuries reported were to the extremities, specifically the hands, fingers, wrists, feet and elbows. There were a small number of injuries to the back and stomach as well among the 29 people who said that they'd been hurt on the job.

Because of immigrants' resilience, it may not come as a surprise as to how many of them stayed in their positions despite their injuries. Approximately seven in 10 respondents said that they "always" or "sometimes" maintained their post for whatever job they were involved with, even though doing so was sometimes tiring or painful.

Immigrants often unaware of workers' compensation
When workers get hurt while working, they are entitled to workers' compensation. Many small business have this type of insurance protection, which enables them to provide payment for their workers should they encounter an injury or illness that prevents them from being able to work.

The study found, though, that many immigrants were not aware that their company had this type of coverage that they could take advantage of. More than 60 percent of immigrants said that they didn't know about workers' compensation.

This report will likely help business owners better understand their employees and why it's important to make them aware of certain protections they have in the event they can't work for health-related reasons.

New Hampshire isn't known for being a major hub for foreign residents, as the immigrant population there is a fraction of what it is in states like Illinois, Florida, California and Texas. But the Granite State is slowly but surely seeing its population become more diverse. According to the Carsey Institute at the University of New Hampshire, slightly more than 5 percent of the state's population is made up of immigrants. However, that's a full percentage point higher than in 2000. In addition, the relatively small share of foreign-born residents produced 50 percent of the state's population increase in between 2000 and 2010.

Numbers from the Immigration Policy Center indicate that New Hampshire has 69,700 foreign immigrants currently living within the state, nearly 55 percent of whom have been naturalized.


American homeowners increasingly comprised of immigrants

Thanks to the successes of immigrants in the working world, many of whom send money to their families back home, they will likely have a heavy influence on homeownership throughout the next several years, a recent report indicates.

According to a joint study conducted by researchers from the Mortgage Bankers Association and the Population Dynamics Research Group at the University of California, homeownership growth among roughly 33 percent of new households will be made up of the immigrant population. In addition, growth in more than one in every four renter households will be comprised of immigrants.

John Pitkin, senior research associate for the PDRG, said that while the report pertains to all immigrants regardless of where they originated from, the largest bloc of buyers will be the Hispanic community.

"For example, among the cohort of Hispanics who arrived in the United States during the 1980s, homeownership rose from just above 15 percent in 1990 to nearly 53 percent in 2010," said Pitkin. "[It] is projected to rise to above 61 percent in 2020 when the cohort will have resided more than 30 years in the United States."

He added that the heightened demand of homes among immigrants is a natural outflow of the pace at which individuals from other countries have come to the U.S., many of whom came seeking a better life for themselves and their family.

The report also detailed the states that would likely garner the most demand from immigrants. Perhaps not surprisingly – given how many immigrants live there – New York and California are likely to represent the states with the highest rates of foreign-born demand. Home owning immigrants already represent a sizable share of property owners in the respective states, comprising 82 percent of the increase in California and 65 percent in New York.

According to the Immigration Policy Center, 10.1 million immigrants live in the Golden State, with roughly four in 10 being naturalized citizens. In New York, more than half of the Empire State's immigrants are have gone through the naturalization process of the 4.2 million who live there.

Four other states where growth is likely to be largely represented by foreign-born citizens include New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Michigan, the report said.

Mark Zandi, a nationally recognized economist for Moody's Analytics, indicated that the immigrant population will have a heavy influence on the country's economy, as much of it depends on the real estate sector.

"Immigrants will be key to the housing market for decades to come," said Zandi, USA Today reports.

Cities with highest, lowest vacancy rates
With demand for rental and purchase households picking up, immigrants may find it difficult to find a place that's available, as vacancy rates have diminished. However, there are a number of metropolitan regions where many people have either left or are leaving their homes after they sell them.

The U.S. Census Bureau recently released a list of the 75 cities where vacancy rates are highest. At 4 percent, the city with the largest number of properties available is Bakersfield, California. The Golden State's ninth-largest city is followed by Greensboro, North Carolina at 3.5 percent, Las Vegas at 3.4 percent; Toledo, Ohio at 3.3 percent and the Riverside-San Bernardino, California area at 3.3 percent. Rounding out the top 10 are St. Louis at 3.1 percent, Virginia Beach, New Orleans and Providence, Rhode Island tied at 2.9 percent and Chicago at 2.8 percent.

El Paso, Texas; Springfield, Massachusetts and Rochester, New York are three places where vacancies are few and far between. Each of these metro areas has a vacancy rate of 0.5 percent or less.