How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Juarez makeup debacle comes to an end, but questions about what inspired it linger

Photo by Steev Hise/Flickr (Creative Commons)

An installation commemorating the Ciudad Juarez murder victims, March 2006

The other night, while I was visiting with a few comadres, the talk turned to Ciudad Juarez. One woman had just seen the film "Backyard," a Mexican feature based on the hundreds of unsolved murders of women, many of them factory workers, in the border city. The film screened at the Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival last week.

And from there, the Juarez conversation took an inevitable turn: the recent flap in the fashion/cosmetics world over a Ciudad Juarez-inspired line of makeup from M·A·C Cosmetics and Rodarte, the Los Angeles-based fashion house, which so angered consumers after word of it got out earlier this summer via fashion and beauty bloggers that M·A·C recently decided to pull the line.

Here’s how it started: Last year, Rodarte designers and founders Kate and Laura Mulleavy, two sisters of third-generation Mexican descent, took a road trip along the Texas-Mexico border from El Paso to Marfa. In January, they unveiled a line of ready-to-wear fashions with an intentionally thrown-together look, which they said at the time was inspired by that road trip, in particular the female maquiladora workers who dress and make their way to work in the middle of the night – and who also happen to make up the bulk of the victims of the murders that have been occurring since the early 1990s.

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After grumbling about immigrant neighbors, a writer examines her attitude

Photo by Todd Lappin/Flickr (Creative Commons)

A suburban neighborhood in Northern California, February 2006


A thought-provoking piece in the Los Angeles Times by columnist Sandy Banks caught my attention earlier today.

It's about how during a recent evening walk with her college-age daughter, Banks overhears a loud conversation through a window in a foreign tongue ("was it Armenian or Persian or maybe Russian?"). Banks catches herself railing against her immigrant neighbors, launching into a tirade "about how they let their children run wild and their dog wander the street, how their grass is too long, their unread newspapers pile up, their trash cans sit at the curb for days."

Then, to her daughter's horror: "I don't agree with the immigration law in Arizona, but I get where those voters are coming from." Banks' attitude seems to surprise her as much as her daughter, so she goes on to examine her evolution:

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Report: Foreign workers don't displace native-born

Photo by Michael @NW Lens/Flickr (Creative Commons)

A construction worker on the job at a site in Seattle, July 2010

Several news outlets have stories today on a new report from the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco which concludes that foreign-born workers do not displace native-born ones.

The report, published yesterday, was written by visiting scholar Giovanni Peri, an associate economics professor at UC Davis. In it, Peri summarizes previous research on how immigrants affect total output, per-worker income, and employment in the short and long run. From the report:

Consistent with previous research, the analysis finds no significant effect of immigration on net job growth for U.S.-born workers in these time horizons. This suggests that the economy absorbs immigrants by expanding job opportunities rather than by displacing workers born in the United States. Second, at the state level, the presence of immigrants is associated with increased output per worker.

This effect emerges in the medium to long run as businesses adjust their physical capital, that is, equipment and structures, to take advantage of the labor supplied by new immigrants. However, in the short run, when businesses have not fully adjusted their productive capacity, immigrants reduce the capital intensity of the economy.

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