Photo: American Southwest: Pride, Prejudice and Perseverance by Paulina Rael Jaramillo
Immigrants from various countries come to America seeking an opportunity to improve their lives and create a foundation of success for their children to build upon. Along with their dreams they bring their skills and a willingness to work hard to make their dreams a reality. During the latter half of the 20th century a large influx of immigrants came to the United States from Mexico and other Spanish-speaking countries.
Their impact, however, goes far beyond sheer numbers and ranges from soldiers and heroes to agriculture and factory workers, from labor union to mutual aid organizers and civil rights activists. Their achievements in the fine arts have earned them Academy, Emmy and Grammy Awards as well as the Pulitzer and Nobel Prize. Many are well regarded as intellectuals in such fields as education, medicine, science and philosophy. They have been active in local, state and national politics—ranging from Senators to Ambassadors to Supreme Court Justice and have excelled in nearly every athletic sport in both the Olympic and professional levels.
However, by taking a closer look at just one of those areas, the economic sector, we can clearly see that legal and illegal immigrants continue to augment the United States treasury by providing low cost labor, tax revenue and by their participation as consumers, investors and entrepreneurs. The amount of money factory owners save by using immigrant labor has in some cases made the difference between keeping their factories operational or shutting them down. Without the availability of local cheap labor, owners often resort to the alternative means of keeping costs down—outsourcing, which in the long run hurts the national economy even more. The cost of produce and services will also rise significantly without immigrant labor.
Most immigrants, after they have been in the labor force for a few years, either move up the ladder or start their own business. Current research shows that Hispanic-owned businesses continue to outpace the national average by a 3:1 ratio, while the number of Asian-owned businesses have grown at twice the national average.
An article titled, Hispanic-Owned Businesses Booming, written by Liz Marlantes for ABC News, states that “Between 1997 and 2002, the number of businesses owned by Hispanics grew by 31 percent—three times the national average for all businesses—hitting 1.6 million in 2002 and generating some $222 billion in revenue.” She continues by commenting that, “Many of these businesses are cropping up in unexpected places. While most are still in California, Texas, Florida and New York, the states where Hispanic-owned firms are growing at the fastest rate, after New York, are Rhode Island and Georgia, followed by Nevada and South Carolina.”
In addition to starting up businesses, Hispanic immigrants contribute to the U.S. economy by their purchasing power. As of 2010, the dollar amount that Hispanics spend in the US has increased to $1 trillion dollars, according to the abstract of an article published by Mintel International Group titled, Share of Wallet: Hispanics – US – February 2010. “Hispanic purchasing power is as diverse as the consumers it represents. It is $1 trillion strong and growing faster than the purchasing power of any other group.” HispanTelligence® projects that the purchasing power will continue to increase reaching 12 percent by 2015.
A phenomenon that began shortly after World War II continues to unfold as the “baby boomers” shift from the workforce to retirement in record numbers. Economists predict a huge decrease in the labor force at the same time that a demand for new jobs will arise, especially in the health care and service sectors. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates a demand for 56 million new jobs will exist by 2012, with approximately 75 million Americans retiring. The demand for laborers will increase proportionally.
Nevertheless, a weakened financial economy and the emotional reaction resulting from that, rather than careful consideration, seems to bring about changes in attitude and the enactment of new immigration laws. The simple fact that America would be hard-pressed to maintain its present economic status quo without immigrant labor, is often drowned by the loud and strident voices of rhetoric seeking to assign blame.
As the largest “minority” in the United States, Latinos are having an enormous economical, social and political impact on American society and will continue shaping and directing America’s future despite restrictions and rethoric.
Paulina Jaramillo is currently conducting lectures at colleges and universities on Immigration and Education and is the author of the newly released book, The American Southwest: Pride~Prejudice~Perseverance available through Amazon and her website www.theamericansouthwest.net. The above article is an excerpt from her book.