This is a great story in the Washington Post, postive proactive initiatives to combat the rising negative attitudes towards immigrants. This is an example of a strong coalition between government and business! Working towards positive solutions, too bad our local government didn’t have the fortitude to take this type of initiative.
Amid increasing public hostility to immigrants and intensifying efforts by local and federal authorities to crack down on illegal immigration, these business leaders hope to counter criticism that immigrants steal jobs and burden public services by highlighting the contributions they make to the U.S. economy and improving their ability to integrate.
The initiative is supported by a bill recently introduced in Congress. Sponsored by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and three representatives from California, Florida and Texas, it would provide $350 million for immigrant family literacy programs, individual tax credits for teachers and corporate tax breaks for firms that offer educational workplace programs like “Thirst for Knowledge.”
In addition to support from private firms that employ thousands of immigrants from Latin America and elsewhere, the bill is backed by the Americas Society and Council of the Americas, which recently issued a report called “U.S. Business and Hispanic Integration: Expanding the Economic Contributions of Immigrants.”
The report points out that Hispanics make up more than 14 percent of the U.S. workforce, own more than 2 million businesses and have a collective purchasing power of more than $800 billion a year. It says foreign-born workers have much to offer but need more help to master English and become more invested in American society.
It concedes that many Hispanic immigrants arrive with limited educations and that the immigration wave of the past two decades has slightly depressed wages among unskilled American workers. It also argues that immigrants “complement” the overall labor force as more native-born Americans earn degrees and seek higher-level jobs.
The report also asserts that if immigrants are given more opportunities to learn, earn and engage, they will repay the investment as better workers, parents, consumers and participants in public life. Although not endorsing illegal immigration, the report accepts it as a fact of life that needs to be addressed through legislative reforms.
Some companies that employ immigrants have been reluctant to associate themselves with the effort, however, citing fears of public criticism and government scrutiny amid increasingly aggressive federal efforts to track down illegal immigrants and punish their employers.
“Businesses feel cowed by the rhetoric,” said Christopher Sabatini, a policy director at the Americas Society and Council of the Americas. “There is a fear of being labeled as aiding and abetting undocumented immigrants.” He said some companies have curtailed programs aimed at helping immigrant workers because of community disapproval.
One company that has taken a strong public stance in favor of helping immigrant workers is Miller & Long. Myles Gladstone, the firm’s personnel director, said that it once hired mostly African Americans but that since the early 1990s, fewer U.S.-born workers have applied, and they have been largely replaced by immigrants. Today, the firm employs more than 2,000 Hispanics, mostly foreign-born.