Is Immigration a Sensible Approach to Economic Revitalization of Blighted Communities?

By: Shannon Pascal

Throughout the 1990s, Charlotte, North Carolina’s Central Avenue Business District was a community in decline. Many of the shopping centers built during the economic boom of the 1960s and 70s were abandoned, and landlords struggled to find tenants to occupy vacant apartments as residents fled to more prosperous suburbs. The 2000s signaled a reversal of fortune, however, when foreign-born immigrants began moving to the District. The new residents brought with them new businesses for the shopping centers, and new families to fill the apartments. Two decades later, Charlotte’s Central Avenue Business District is once again an economically vibrant community.

In a recently-published case study analyzing Central Avenue’s revitalization, researchers suggest that immigrant business owners have a unique set of advantages which empower them to excel in racially and ethnically diverse neighborhoods like Charlotte. These advantages include: 1) foreign language skills which make foreign-born customers feel “at home” and native customers feel cosmopolitan; 2) a high degree of loyalty among co-ethnic customers; 3) the willingness of immigrant business owners to exploit their own labor; and 4) an openness to investing in economically distressed neighborhoods. Researchers also cite factors specific to Charlotte, such as extensive cooperation between business owners of all races over issues of common interest (such as crime) and a prime location along a central downtown corridor, as contributing to Central Avenue’s success.

An important result from Central Avenue’s revitalization, however, is the degree of immigrant business-owners’ government involvement. A Supervisor from the City of Charlotte described most immigrant business owners as being too interested in the day to day survival of their businesses to become politically involved. The city has made numerous attempts to reach out to immigrant business owners, but none have been successful. Researchers, meanwhile, cite linguistic, cultural, and trust-related barriers, as well as general ignorance of available programs, as driving immigrant business owners away from seeking help through government channels. In other words, immigrant business owners in Charlotte are very much “going it alone.”

Contrast the immigrant business owners’ experience in Charlotte to the heavy-handed government revitalization efforts in cities such as New York.   Immigrant business owners in Charlotte were able to revitalize the Central Avenue Business District by giving new life to long-abandoned businesses, while in New York City, the government routinely seizes privately-owned property and displaces residents under its “land use improvement” policies. Charlotte and New York City are very different cities facing very different issues, but consider the fact that more American cities resemble Charlotte than they do New York, and the social toll of heavy-handed use of eminent domain, we should look towards Charlotte and its industrious immigrant community as a model for revitalizing blighted communities in the future.

Sources:

Johana C. Schuch. & Qingfang Wang, Immigrant Businesses, Place-making, and Community Development: A Case From an Emerging Immigrant Gateway, 32 J. Cultural Geography 214 (2015).

Kate D. Derickson & Robert J.S. Ross., Asia Comes to Main Street and May Learn to Speak Spanish: Globalization in a Poor Neighborhood in Worcester, 13 J. World-Sys. Res. 179 (2008).

Matter of Kaur v. N.Y. State Urban Dev. Corp., 933 N.E.2d 721 (2010).

Matter of Goldstein v. N.Y. State Urban Dev. Corp., 921 N.E.2d 164 (2009).

Highly-Skilled Immigrants: Ingredients for Technological Advancements

By: John Jusu

With the presidential election of 2016 looming, candidates have made efforts to highlight immigration reform within the United States. One of the biggest issues within this controversial topic is the issues surrounding the U.S.’s H-1B visa program. The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa which allows U.S. employers to recruit and employ foreign professionals in specialty occupations within the U.S. for a specified period of time. This program allows these foreign workers to legally live and work in the U.S. for a total of six consecutive years, and entitles their spouses and children (under the age of 21) to accompany them while on an H-4 visa. However, the spouses and children have to obtain their own work visa in order to gain employment.

Although there are many opponents of this program, highly skilled immigrants play a vital role in our country’s technological advancements. The U.S. thrives on its ability to innovate and invent potentially life-changing products. Over the last decade, job growth in the U.S. was three times faster in innovation-rich fields like science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (“STEM”) than in the rest of the U.S. economy. However, employers in these fields have had a hard time filling these booming positions with homegrown, American talent. The number of native-born American students concentrating in STEM fields is growing at just 0.8 percent per year, far lower than other fields. Therefore, highly-skilled H-1B visa holders are needed to satisfy these ever-growing needs in order to ensure that the next technological breakthrough will take place on American soil.

Highly-skilled immigrants are at the forefront of the successes being realized by some of the top and most prestigious companies in the U.S., such as Qualcomm, Merck, and General Electric. Nearly 25.3 percent of technology and engineering businesses launched in America between 1995 and 2005 were founded by someone who was identified as an immigrant. Despite the program’s criticisms, the U.S. has received a benefit by employing these individuals. In order to stay competitive with its international competitors, the U.S. has to continue to strive toward the goal of scientific evolution. The end result for this type of improvement could likely solidify an economic boom for this country, ultimately leading to an increase in employment opportunities for U.S. citizens, as well as a decrease in the unemployment rate in the U.S.

While antagonists have ill-will toward the utilization of highly-skilled immigrants, there needs to be a realization that there is often a skills gap that the H-1B programs seeks to bridge. Integrating these individuals within the U.S.’s top innovation systems would likely lead to expansion possibilities. This boost in ingenuity is the key to long-term economic growth – a goal which is the pillar of every nation’s blueprint for the future.

Sources:

Lauren C. Williams, Trump Hits A Nerve Talking About High-Skill Immigrant Visas, THINK PROGRESS, August 21, 2015.

Zhang & Associates, P.C., U.S. Immigration Attorneys and Counselors, http://www.hooyou.com/h-1b/.

Immigrant Access to Healthcare and the Quality of Healthcare Services

By: Lee Molitoris

Immigrants face challenges in both obtaining healthcare and the quality of healthcare services, and both of these problems worsen for undocumented immigrants. Before Universal Healthcare, documented immigrants had some access to healthcare coverage through Medicare and Medicaid, however undocumented immigrants were denied access to many federal, state and local benefits. Generally, immigrants were not turned away by hospitals in emergency situations, regardless of medical coverage or immigration status.

Universal Healthcare does little to alleviate the problems of undocumented immigrants. Two purposes of Universal Healthcare were to save the taxpayer money by treating patients before they were rushed to the emergency room, thereby avoiding expensive emergency room costs, and giving healthcare access to indigent people. However, Universal Healthcare still does not cover undocumented immigrants, thereby ignoring one of the biggest problems that our prior healthcare system faced. One solution is to provide healthcare to undocumented children, which would allow healthier adults and less emergency room visits.

Further, immigrants have lower quality of healthcare services due to racial discrimination and language barriers. To help solve these problems, hospitals could hire interpreters, or provide medical staff electronic tablets with interactive translating, which could help bridge the language barrier. An additional approach could be a form of community lawyering, where attorneys and community members engage hospitals in legal and non-legal actions to encourage hospitals to provide equal access to healthcare services. Community lawyering would encourage hospital medical staff to stop racial discrimination and bridge language barriers.

Sources:

Samuel Wolbert, Universal Healthcare and Access for Undocumented Immigrants, 5 Pitt J. Envtl. Pub. Health L. 61 (2011).

Rose Cuison Villazor, Community Lawyering: An Approach to Addressing Inequalities in Access to Health Care for Poor, of Color and Immigrant Communities, 8 N.Y.U. J. Legis. & Publ Pol’y 35 (2005).

A Desperate Need for United States Immigration Reform

By: Jocelyn Schultz

Since September 11, 2011, the United States has made it increasingly more difficult for foreign students to obtain visas to study and work in the United States. The difficulties that foreign students face are rejections at their consular interviews, visa delays, denials of status for technical violations revealed by the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS), and few opportunities to adjust their status. To remain in the United States after the completion of their school programs, foreign immigrant students must apply for an H-1B specialty working visa. These visas are essentially the only visas that will allow a student to stay and work in the United States after graduation. However, because these visas are in such high demand, the possibility of obtaining one immediately is difficult, which has caused many highly skilled foreign students to take their talent and U.S. education outside of the U.S.

Highly skilled immigrant students have made many contributions to the U.S. They have made contributions as innovators and entrepreneurs. Also, they have increased the economy, increased innovation, and job creation. For example, foreign graduates have founded an estimated 2,340 U.S. companies that employ over 100,000 people. Although many foreign students have contributed to this country, the arguments are made by U.S. citizens that foreign students take “American jobs,” reduce wages, and cause a “brain drain” in their home countries. However, increased foreign immigration has refuted those arguments.

The U.S. has often overlooked foreign students’ contributions to society, but countries such as Canada have not. Canada has put in place a green card provision in its immigration law: this allows foreign students to apply for permanent residence if they obtain a Canadian college or graduate degree. On this path, Canada has set itself up to surpass the United States in human capital by recruiting highly skilled workers. The author of this Note suggests that the United States follow the framework of Canada’s new immigration law and address the issue of foreign students and how they can remain in the United States legally.

The Note goes on to argue that although the United States does have potential solutions to keep strong foreign minds in the country, the U.S. really needs new legislation to integrate a conditional residence requirement. With this requirement, Congress could alleviate the protectionist concerns and keep highly skilled foreign students in the country. The retention rate of foreign students is low, and the immigration law at its current state gives very limited options for students to obtain permanent U.S. residence. The legal barriers that foreign students face are detrimental to the United States, especially in a time where the U.S. economy needs to be reenergized and a large portion of the country’s scientists and engineers are retiring. The need for the U.S. immigration law reform also stems from the fact that other countries have been actively recruiting foreign students for years; making the time for United States immigration reform past due.

Source:

Katherine L. Porter, Retain the Brains: Using a Conditional Residence Requirement to Keep the Best and Brightest Foreign Students in the United States, 40 Hofstra L. Rev. 593 (2011).

Immigrant Owned Business: The Need for Easier Entry to the United States

By: Troy Brown

The modern day American economy is largely influenced by startups and small businesses. These types of businesses are not only the most common; they also create the most jobs. Immigrants play a large part in the creation of these sorts of businesses. Some of the most influential U.S. businesses, such as AT&T and Kraft, were started by immigrants.

However, even though there are countless benefits of allowing immigrants to come here to start new businesses, U.S. immigration law continues to reject immigrants looking to start up new businesses that could create numerous jobs for Americans. While there are two categories, E-2 and EB-5, which allow for some business owners to enter the United States, there is no true entrepreneur visa for immigrants.

The EB-5 and E-2 visas were meant to invite immigrant owned business. However, the restrictive nature of the categories often lead potential entrepreneurs to take their business elsewhere. For instance, the EB-5 visa allows for immigrant investors to enter the United States, but the potential immigrant has to invest at least $1,000,000 in startup capital. Most startups do not start out with anywhere near a million dollars in startup capital; therefore this is not the ideal path for a majority of potential immigrant business owners.

Additionally, the E-2 category, which grants temporary residence to foreign business entrepreneurs that intend to invest in U.S. businesses, has its own set of issues. First, this type of visa is restricted to people only from countries that have a treaty with the United States. This eliminates many countries immediately, leaving many people unable to pursue this path of entry into the United States. Even for those that can pursue this path, it is not the most enticing mode of entry for people seeking to start a business. This visa only allows for two-year residency periods, and even though the amount of renewals are unlimited, it does not allow for a path to permanent residency. The risk and expense of constantly renewing a visa every two years tend to drive away some potential business owners.

With the importance of bringing in new business owners, the need to reform our current immigration law for non-citizen entrepreneurs is clear. One possible solution is the creation of a true entrepreneur visa that has a reasonable capital requirement and allows for permanent residency. This would tackle the two main issues with the EB-5 and E-2 visas. However, whatever the solution may be, it is clear that something needs to be done.

Source:

Yasser Killawi, ARTICLE: PRESERVING AN ENTREPRENEURIAL AMERICA: HOW RESTRICTIVE IMMIGRATION POLICIES STIFLE THE CREATION AND GROWTH OF STARTUPS AND SMALL BUSINESSES, 8 Entrepren. Bus. L.J. 129 (2013).

The Impact of Immigrants on American Businesses

By: Margaret Nollau

A study by the Fiscal Policy Institute (FPI), which focused only on legally incorporated businesses, found that the percentage of small businesses owned by immigrants has risen from 12% in the 1990’s to 18% today. This means that more than one in six small businesses in America is owned by an immigrant, despite immigrants encompassing only 13% of the overall U.S. population.

The increase in immigrant-owned businesses means an increase in American jobs and income. This report by the FPI estimated that immigrants employ 4.7 million American workers and create $776 billion in revenue. Most immigrant business owners are in the professional and business service sector (141,000), followed by retail and construction (120,000 each), educational and social services (100,000), and leisure and hospitality (100,000). Furthermore, most of the owners come from Mexico, with India in second, then South Korea, Cuba, China, Vietnam, Canada, and Iran.

Scholars say these immigrants are not “super entrepreneurs,” but they are risk takers for leaving their countries of origin in the first place, and it may be necessary to sustain themselves in a new country. Many of these immigrants have college degrees from their home countries, but American employers typically do not recognize such degrees. Therefore, they must start businesses themselves. This paves the way for others of the same nationalities to come and follow in their respective footsteps, which explains why many Dunkin Donut restaurants are owned by Indians, for example.

Current United States immigration law only allows for 140,000 immigrants to enter the country annually for permanent residency, although studies show there are nearly 1 million foreign nationals waiting to immigrate to America. Immigration remains a hotly contested issue in America today: many Americans believe immigrants come to the United States and steal jobs from them. The author of this study argues to the contrary; that immigrants come to America as consumers and entrepreneurs which stimulate, and improves, our economy.

Source:

Mark Koba, How Immigrants Are Changing US Businesses, CNBC, September 4, 2012.

Undocumented Students Face Increased Challenges with Access to Higher Education

By: Nicholas Dalessio

The rising cost of higher education in America is making it increasingly difficult for students to afford a college degree.  Most students are able to finance their education through student loans, including programs offered by federal and state governments.  However, access to these programs is not available to all who are attending colleges and universities in the United States:  Undocumented immigrants who enroll are not eligible for federal loans or Pell grants.  To expand educational opportunities for undocumented students, many states have launched loan programs that allow them access to student loans and other forms of financial aid to cover education costs and living expenses.

California is one state leading the charge in the effort to provide financial aid to undocumented students.  With new programs like the California Dream Act and the California Dream Loan Program, undocumented students have the chance to take advantage of college funding provided by the state.  Even with these programs in place, only 67 percent of the grants awarded last year to undocumented students were used.  Lupita Cortez Alcala, executive director of the California Student Aid Commission stated that the Commission is “working with higher education institutions and students to find out why that is and how to ensure that the students who are awarded the grants enroll and take advantage of them.”  One of the main issues she points to is, even with the grants, without access to other sources of funding, undocumented students do not have enough to cover the cost of tuition and other expenses.  Students also have to pay for the cost of living on or near campus, commuting expenses and food, along with books and other supplies.  Due to this large financial burden, being undocumented, low-income, and a first generation immigrant in the United States, these students are either not attending, or they are taking time off from school to raise the necessary funds for attendance.

Tuition inequality adds an additional layer to this problem.  Some states have previously passed tuition equality measures to implement in-state tuition rates for undocumented students, while others have not. As tuition equality legislation is passed in different states, there remains confusion among administrators and staff on how to implement the new laws and policies, requiring students to look outside of the college or university for help to access these programs.  The lack of knowledge by those advisors creates additional confusion in the complexities of assisting undocumented students, including some schools telling students that they do not qualify for in-state tuition and mislabeling them as international students.

Problems continue for undocumented students even after they are accepted and secure financial assistance.  Situations arise to remind them of how their immigrant status makes them different than other students on campus, including viewpoints in class discussion displaying anti-immigrant sentiments, job and career fairs held by employers who only hire U.S. citizens, and dealing with staff and administrators who do not understand the operation of the new state programs.  With the multiple challenges that they must face, undocumented students make many sacrifices to gain access to higher education; from being admitted, securing financial aid and having the continued resources for each semester, along with the possibility that they or one of their family members will be deported.  For these reasons, a significant number of undocumented students simply are unable to take advantage of in-state tuition rates and financial aid provided by the state.

Source:

Monica Harvin, Why Are Undocumented Students Leaving In-State Tuition and Financial Aid Unclaimed?, GOODCALL, February 24, 2016.