How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

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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Students tell their personal stories in DREAM Act 'letters'

Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

A sign parodying the famous immigrant highway-crossing sign, outside a DREAM Act rally in Los Angeles earlier this month.

For the past several weeks, I've been following a series of posts on the social-justice blog Citizen Orange that features the personal stories of undocumented college students.

Titled "DREAM Now: Letters to Barack Obama," it is part of a social media advocacy campaign in support of the DREAM Act, with the posts disseminated via a series of other supportive blogs. However, the stories of the students, with related video clips, are interesting enough in themselves to be worthy of a compelling profile series.

Part of what I like is the focus on students from various corners of the world: Young people from Iran, India, Russia and Korea are featured along with students from Mexico, Guatemala and Venezuela. While letting readers know that illegal immigration isn't just a Latino issue is undoubtedly part of the goal of the series, being reminded doesn't hurt. According to the Pew Research Center, nearly a quarter of the undocumented population of the United States is not from Latin America.

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