Posts tagged Economy
Posts tagged Economy
By: Greg Allen
Puerto Rico’s population is dropping. Faced with a deteriorating economy, increased poverty and a swelling crime rate, many citizens are fleeing the island for the U.S. mainland. In a four-part series, Morning Edition explores this phenomenon, and how Puerto Rico’s troubles are affecting its people and other Americans in unexpected ways.
According to the most recent census, the 4.6 million Puerto Ricans living on the U.S. mainland now surpass those on the island of Puerto Rico. For years, they’ve been migrating out of the U.S. Caribbean territory — many to escape the escalating crime rate and economic crisis.
Today, Florida replaces New York as the primary destination for Puerto Ricans coming to the U.S. In Osceola County, Fla., the population has tripled over the past two decades largely because of the migration. It’s one of the nation’s fastest growing areas, and about half of the population is Hispanic — most of them Puerto Rican.
Bringing Puerto Rico To Florida
In Kissimmee, south of Orlando, many of the signs are in Spanish, and some businesses resemble what you might find in a city like San Juan.
One of those businesses is Miguel Fontanez’s restaurant, Pioco’s Chicken. It’s a spot that was started by his father, also named Miguel.
The elder Fontanez owned a chain of successful restaurants in Puerto Rico. But in 1996, he brought his family to Central Florida after his brother, a police officer, was killed.
“It was very bad; it was very tough,” Fontanez says. “So [my father] just wanted to move somewhere fresh and start something different. And my grandmother at that time was living already here. So the first place that came to mind was Florida.”
Many of his customers, he says, are still newcomers from the island.
“Just last week, I had a big group, a family that just moved from Puerto Rico here because of the economy, because it’s very bad,” Fontanez says. “They’re more in the truck business, and over here it’s expanding more than over there.”
Other businesses — larger endeavors — are also migrating from the island.
A number of Puerto Rican colleges and universities have opened campuses in Central Florida, offering bilingual education to the area’s fast-growing Hispanic population.
Mech Tech Institute, for example, is a technical school that launched its first U.S. campus last year in Orlando at a defunct Saturn dealership. The institute offers training in everything from heating and air-conditioning repair to diesel machines.
A Long History With Florida
The connection between Florida and Puerto Rico stretches back decades. But many say the Big Bang — the event that created the huge wave of Puerto Rican migration — came on a specific date: Oct. 1, 1971, the day Walt Disney World opened its doors.
Disney World, and the theme parks that came after it, created thousands of jobs in an area that had been largely rural. Opportunities were especially ripe for bilingual speakers like John Quinones, a Puerto Rican who’s now a commissioner in Osceola County.
“I used Spanish a lot,” Quinones says. “A lot of the [people from] Latin American countries that would come to visit the parks — that would certainly cater to them.”
Quinones was 14 when his family moved to the area from Puerto Rico. He worked at Disney World’s Frontierland, at the Pecos Bill cafe, to support himself while in college.
The opening of Disney World came at a critical time for Puerto Rico, as the 1970s saw the beginning of an economic slowdown on the island that continues to this day.
But Jorge Duany, a professor of anthropology at Miami’s Florida International University, says the financial troubles arrived after decades of prosperity on the island — an era that greatly expanded the middle class.
“And there was substantial economic growth,” Duany says. “The educational system expanded. So there was actually a large group of people who were then capable of investing, migrating or at least buying land in Florida so they or their kids could use it later on.”
A New Home
Some of the Puerto Ricans in Osceola County say they came to be with family, some to get away from rising crime. But many, like Arlene Bonet, moved to find work. Bonet came from what she describes as a beautiful area on Puerto Rico’s southwest coast — a town called Cabo Rojo.
“I used to live right on the corner by the beach. I used to go every day to the beach to see the sunsets,” she recalls.
She says she misses those sunsets and the mountains nearby, where she would meditate and practice yoga every Sunday. Her town is a vacation area, and for many years, she made a good living selling real estate.
“But then the economy and the bubble exploded all around the world, and real estate went down, mortgages went down, and business went down too,” she says.
Bonet says she did what she could to keep going. She laid off her four employees and went back to school to get her MBA. But then Puerto Rico went into what she calls a second, politically driven downturn.
To combat a massive budget deficit, Puerto Rico’s government laid off thousands of public employees. Bonet’s business was dead, and she saw no signs of when it might come back.
After moving to Central Florida with her daughter, Bonet says finding a job wasn’t easy. But now that she has one, she’s grown to love the area and has no plans to return.
“It’s pretty much like a Caribbean island because it’s sunny, it’s fresh, it’s beautiful,” she explains. “So we feel like it’s home.”
While the move was hard on her daughter, Bonet says it was crucial — both for her future and her eventual grandchildren.
“That’s one of the reasons also I moved,” Bonet says. “It’s not just thinking about me. What kind of life can I give my grandchildren in the future if Puerto Rico, instead of going up, is going down?”
By: Mark Felsenthal
WASHINGTON, Dec 30 (Reuters) - President Barack Obama is pledging to focus in his second term on immigration reform, boosting economic growth through infrastructure repair and energy policies that nod to environmental protection.
The president is mired in a difficult fight with congressional Republicans to avoid sharp spending cuts and steep tax increases collectively referred to as the “fiscal cliff.” However, he still has a longer-term to-do list for his remaining four years in office, he said in an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that was broadcast on Sunday.
Obama, who won re-election in November after a campaign in which he succeeded in painting himself as a strong advocate for the middle class and those aspiring to join it, also promised in the interview to make a run at passing gun control legislation in the first year of his second term.
“Fixing our broken immigration system is a top priority,” he said. He renewed a pledge to introduce legislation in the first year of his second term to get it done.
Immigration reform is a sensitive subject for the president, who failed to fulfill his promise to revamp the system during his first term. Latino voters were a critical part of the coalition that helped get him re-elected, a fact that may soften political opposition from Republicans, who are eager to bolster their support with that demographic group.
Immigration reform supporters on the left believe that the 11 million undocumented foreigners in the United States should be allowed a path to work toward citizenship. But opponents believe that this approach would reward people who broke the law by coming to the United States illegally.
Republicans have sought stronger measures to keep illegal immigrants from entering the United States from Mexico. Advocates on both sides of the debate want to more effectively verify legal workers in an economy in which businesses want to hire non-U.S. workers ranging from low-paid farm hands to technology-savvy professionals.
While negotiations to avoid the fiscal cliff have hogged the spotlight in the first weeks after the election, Obama said he wants to take steps to ensure the sluggish recovery gains steam.
Many observers had believed a persistently high level of unemployment would thwart Obama’s chances of winning a second term. The U.S. jobless rate peaked at 10 percent in 2009 after the harshest recession since the Great Depression but has been falling and dipped to 7.7 percent in November.
The president said rebuilding crumbling roads, bridges and schools could put people back to work and put the economy on a sounder footing. He said he would pair those steps - which would likely involve government spending - with deficit reduction measures to tame the nation’s budget deficit.
The president also said energy policy would be a leading emphasis. He said he would focus on how the country can produce more energy and export energy, while also dealing with environmental challenges. He did not specify how he would do that. The president’s effort to fight climate change with a broad emissions trading system failed during his first term.
When pressed, Obama added gun control to his list of priorities, reiterating his support for a ban on assault rifles and high capacity clips, as well as background checks.
The White House Blog
America is a nation of immigrants. Our American journey and our success would simply not be possible without the generations of immigrants who have come to our shores from every corner of the globe. It is helpful to take a moment to reflect on the important contributions by the generations of immigrants who have helped us build our economy, and made America the economic engine of the world.
How do immigrants strengthen the U.S. economy? Below is our top 10 list for ways immigrants help to grow the American economy.
As a nation of immigrants, we must remember that generations of immigrants have helped lay the railroads and build our cities, pioneer new industries and fuel our Information Age, from Google to the iPhone. As President Obama said at a naturalization ceremony held at the White House last week:
The lesson of these 236 years is clear – immigration makes America stronger. Immigration makes us more prosperous. And immigration positions America to lead in the 21st century. And these young men and women are testaments to that. No other nation in the world welcomes so many new arrivals. No other nation constantly renews itself, refreshes itself with the hopes, and the drive, and the optimism, and the dynamism of each new generation of immigrants. You are all one of the reasons that America is exceptional. You’re one of the reasons why, even after two centuries, America is always young, always looking to the future, always confident that our greatest days are still to come.
We celebrate the contributions of all Americans to building our nation and its economy, including the generations of immigrants.
For Latinos attending the National Council of La Raza‘s (NCLR) annual conference, the issues they identified as being most important varied, suggesting that there’s a diverse list of issues that will influence the Latino vote come November.
Dolores Huerta, civil-rights activist who together with Cesar Chavez co-founded the United Farm Workers union, said the issues of job creation, education and healthcare are among the most important for Latinos. However, immigration, she said, is at the top of her list because “it’s an issue that affects all Latinos regardless of how many generations you’ve been here.”
Daniel R. Ortega, past chair of NCLR’s board of directors, said the economy is the most important issue.
“We’re like everybody else – we have to feed our families too,” he said.
Alexis Hermosillo, a graduate student at Arizona State University, said the passage of a law, like the DREAM Act, that would legalize undocumented youth is much needed. She said undocumented young immigrants “should be allowed to go to school, they should be allowed to work because they have been here for so long, and they do contribute to our economy and our society.”
For Ramona Barron and Blanca Munoz, both from Teaching and Mentoring Communities in southern Texas, healthcare and immigration are them most important issues. They both agree that “without a doubt,” President Barack Obama better understands the issues affecting Latinos than his Republican challenger Mitt Romney.
For Rick Olmos, who lives in Philadelphia, education is at the top of his list of priorities. He specifically worries about the high drop out rates among Latino high school students and the low number of Latinos who go on to college.
When it comes to what presidential candidate he thinks would better address that issue, he said “Romney is a little bit more understanding of the Latino education side, but I’m still waiting to see. I haven’t made a decision yet.”
Their answers suggest that there are various issues that Latinos care about, contrary to the assumption that immigration is at the top of the list for Latinos. Ortega said it is also an indication that “not all Latinos are the same. They have different issues that they care about.”
He added that the area in which Latinos live also influences what issues are more important to them.
“If you’re in an area that’s low on jobs and high on foreclosures, you’re going to get a different response than from people who are not,” he said.
In an attempt to identify the issues Latinos care about, NCLR conducted a poll among the attendees of their 2012 NCLR Annual Conference. Of the 804 respondents, 36 percent ranked jobs and the economy at the top of their list of important issues followed closely behind by 29 percent of them who said immigration was more important and 25 percent who picked education.
“In many ways, the results echo what has been traditionally the issues important to the Latino community,” said Clarissa Martinez, director of NCLR’s Civic Engagement and Immigration, adding that “most people would assume that the top issue for Latinos is immigration, which is not true. What is interesting about the last couple of years though, even when we are in the midst of an economic crisis, is that immigration has actually risen on that agenda.”
She attributes that sparked interest on immigration to the passage of Arizona’s controversial immigration law SB1070 and laws like it.
The poll also found that 80 percent of Latinos said they would support Obama while 10 percent said they preferred Romney. Despite this wide gap, Martinez said Latinos “actually look at candidates based on their positions and meaningful outreach to the community regardless of the party affiliation of the candidate.”
As examples of this, she pointed to states like Florida, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona where “the same voter would vote for the candidate for one party say in the Senate race and the candidate of another party in the governor’s race.”
The NCLR poll supported Martinez’s claim. When asked about their motivation for turning out to vote in this election, nearly half of Latinos said they will vote to take a stand for their community instead of doing it to support a political party.
“The idea that Latinos will never vote for a Republican, we know that is not true,” she said.
Fox News Latino
ORLANDO, Fla. – For the first time since immigration was thrust onto the forefront of the presidential contest, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, is scheduled to address Latino leaders and is expected to push an economy-focused message.
Romney on Thursday is addressing the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. President Barack Obama will speak to the same group Friday.
Romney has struggled in recent days to clarify his immigration policy as he pivots from the harsh rhetoric that defined the monthslong GOP primary to a general election audience in which Latinos will play a critical role.
The stakes are high not only for states with larger Hispanic populations such as Florida, Nevada and Colorado, but for a growing number of other battlegrounds — Ohio, North Carolina and Virginia, among them — where even a modest shift among Latino voters could be significant.
At least one in six Americans is of Hispanic descent, according to the Census Bureau.
“We’re talking about a significant share of the American electorate that could well decide this election,” said Arturo Vargas, executive director of the Latino association. “It’s only now that both candidates are turning their attention to the Latino vote.”
Romney’s speech comes as the Supreme Court prepares to render judgment on a get-tough Arizona law and after Obama announced plans to ease deportation rules for some children of undocumented immigrants.
Obama is riding a wave of Latino enthusiasm over his decision to allow hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants to stay in the country and work. Under the administration plan, undocumented immigrants can avoid deportation if they can prove they were brought to the United States before they turned 16 and are younger than 30, have been in the country for at least five continuous years, have no criminal history, and graduated from a U.S. high school or earned a GED or served in the military.
The new policy could help anywhere from 800,000 young immigrants, the administration’s estimate, to 1.4 million, the Pew Hispanic Center’s estimate.
Romney has refused to say whether he would reverse the policy if elected, but he has seized on the temporary status of Obama’s plan as his prime criticism. The Republican has also highlighted what he calls the president’s “broken promises” to deliver comprehensive immigration reform during his first term.
“These people deserve to understand what their status will be long term, not just 4 1/2 months,” Romney said on Fox News Radio this week. “And that’s why I think it’s important for me and for Congress to come together to put together a plan that secures the border, that insists that we have an employment verification system and that deals with the children of those who have come here illegally on a long-term basis, not a stopgap measure.”
Both sides are crafting aggressive strategies to appeal to a demographic that is by no means monolithic but has supported Democrats in recent elections. Some Republicans fear — and Democrats hope — that Obama could capitalize on this moment to help solidify Hispanic voters as predominantly Democratic this fall and for years to come, much as President Lyndon Johnson hardened the black vote for Democrats as he pushed the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
As is typical, Romney intends to focus on the economy when he faces the Latino convention. The former Massachusetts governor argues that his economic credentials would benefit all people who have struggled under Obama’s leadership in recent years — women, younger voters and Hispanics among them.
That’s a message that resonates with Latinos, according to Vargas.
“Overall, what’s on the minds of the folks who will be gathering here is the state of the economy — the need for more jobs,” he said. “Latino workers have suffered.”
Latino political experts warn that the two opponents should not just focus on the contentious immigration issue that has been driving recent political headlines. For Latinos across the country, like most American voters, the economy remains their major concern.
“It is clear. The economy is number one. No other community has been as hit as hard as the Latino community has by this economic downturn, ” said Max Seivilla, of NALEO.
“Be it unemployment, or housing foreclosures, the Latino community has been devastated,” said Seivilla, who is policy director for NALEO.
The Obama and Romney campaigns have been making a concerted push to appeal to Hispanic voters.
NALEO organizers say immigration is still a major issue that has the ability to unite the Latino population, despite the differences in views among its various group.
Between 1,000 to 1,200 Latino elected and appointed officials are expected to hear the candidates speak at the convention. Less than 5 months remain until election day in November.
U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, a Republican, who is being vetted as a potential running mate for Romney, will also speak at the event. The Floridian of Cuban descent would be the first Latino on a presidential ticket if chosen.
Regardless of his focus, Romney’s appearance will draw attention to his recent rhetoric on the immigration issue.
Facing a Rhode Island audience in April, for example, Romney drew large cheers when he said: “We want people to come here legally. And we like it when they come here speaking English.”
He has said he does not support the Obama administration’s lawsuit challenging Arizona’s hard-line immigration law. And he said that he would veto the DREAM Act, which would have given legal status to some children of undocumented immigrants.
Obama so far has vastly outspent Romney on Spanish-language television and radio. But Romney has released targeted TV and radio ads in Spanish, including some that feature one of Romney’s sons, a fluent Spanish speaker.
Romney is set to leave Florida later Thursday en route to a three-day retreat with fundraisers in Utah.
In a hypercompetitive retail environment, more national stores and some local chains are emphasizing that many of their employees are bilingual and can help customers whose first language is not English.
“A lot of retailers are very much focused on providing a diverse workforce for diverse customers that are coming into their stores. They recognize that a lot of people that come into their stores don’t always speak the language,” said Jackie Fernandez, retail partner with Deloitte’s Los Angeles practice.
Such efforts, which also include signs and advertising in non-English languages, are more prominent in states like California that have diverse populations compared with other parts of the country, she said. More than one-third of California’s population is of Hispanic or Latino origin, according to 2010 census figures. An additional 13 percent are Asian. Statewide, 43 percent of residents speak a language other than English in the home, compared with 20 percent nationally.
Home Depot, Sears, Kmart, Pleasanton-based Safeway and local chains like Hayward-based Airport Home Appliance, are among stores that recruit bilingual employees.
“We are constantly interviewing and hiring for store positions. In that process, we stay alert to the importance of providing language interpretation for our customers. Being bilingual makes an applicant a stronger candidate,” Safeway spokeswoman Teena Massingill said in an email. “It is important to be able to communicate with our customers in a language that is most comfortable for them. It is a part of how we do business.”
Recently, Lovie Cajilig walked into a Home Depot looking for an electrical part. But instead of asking the sales clerk in English where she could find the item, Cajilig asked her questions and got them answered in Tagalog.
“It’s easier. They can help you better,” the Daly City resident said of why she likes to get help in her native language. Rona Correa, a Tagalog-speaking clerk, helped her.
“It’s easier for them to look for it and it’s easier for us to find the item,” said Correa, who wore a badge on her orange Home Depot apron that said “I speak Tagalog” in both English and Tagalog, a language spoken in the Philippines.
Charlie Rodriguez is another bilingual employee who works at the Home Depot store in Daly City. Spanish-speaking shoppers appreciate that he speaks their language.
“It makes their shopping experience a little easier, ” he said. “Especially in a hardware store, with all the electrical and different departments.”
Three years ago, Home Depot began placing language boards at store entrances with the photos and names of their bilingual employees and showing what languages they speak.
“We make an effort in our stores because customer service is a huge priority for us and we want to mirror the communities that we serve. So it’s a concentrated effort in terms of recruitment,” said Alejandra Barron, senior manager for multicultural marketing at Atlanta-based Home Depot.
Airport Home Appliance says its sales people speak 13 languages other than English at the retailer’s five Bay Area locations.
“It was less of an initiative and more of a reflection of where we live. Our staff is as diverse as the Bay Area,” Alicia Owsley, the company’s marketing director, said in an email.
“The effort we make to speak in (a customer’s) native language makes things a little more comfortable,” said Kris Van Eeghen-Stoddard, director of training at Airport Home Appliance and whose family owns the business.
“It’s worked out really well.”
Weekends — especially Saturdays — tend to be the time when there is the greatest demand for bilingual sales people, she said.
Benny Kong, who works in Airport Home Appliance’s Hayward store, said he often gets requests to help out customers who want to talk in Mandarin or Cantonese when they are shopping. Being able to speak in the same language helps him address specific questions they may have about an appliance such as a stove.
“I can explain things in more detail to them based on the way they like to cook,” he said. “Some of the features they may not need when it comes to choosing their appliances.”
At Airport Home Appliance, sales personnel are on commission, so there is no premium paid for speaking a different language. But being able to speak a language other than English can give a sales clerk a selling advantage, Owsley pointed out.
Home Depot declined to say whether its bilingual employees received a pay premium.
While Latinos were particularly hard hit by the recent recession, new evidence indicates that they are benefiting from modest improvements in the nation’s economy.
Latinos as a group account for just 15 percent of the nation’s workforce, but they have “racked up half the employment gains posted since the economy began adding jobs in early 2010,” according to Labor Department statistics cited by the Los Angeles Times.
The Labor Department figures show that of the 2.3 million jobs added to the economy last year, 1.4 million, or 60 percent, were filled by Latinos. The sectors where they gained a large share of jobs included hotels, food services, healthcare and manufacturing.
Few states test campaigns like Florida, where the Hispanic vote is far from monolithic.
“Immigration plays differently down here because the bulk of our Hispanic population is Cuban and Puerto Rican,” said Brad Coker, the Jacksonville-based Mason Dixon Research & Associates.
“Cubans have asylum. Puerto Ricans are citizens. They’re not worried about immigration authorities kicking down their door,” Coker said.
Overlooked amid the loud immigration debate: Every major poll shows Hispanics are most concerned about jobs. Latino unemployment is higher than the national and state averages of 8.5 percent and 9.9 percent, respectively.
“To quote Bill Clinton: It’s the economy, stupid,” said U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, a Miami Republican and Romney backer.
At the height of his career in Congress, Newt Gingrich used to tell audiences that renewing American civilization was “the central challenge of the rest of our lives.”
But before Gingrich could deliver his grand new theory of American civilization to the public in a 1993 speech, his deeply divisive racial stereotypes would need to be removed.
“For poor minorities, entrepreneurship in small business is the key to future wealth,” Gingrich wrote by hand in a first draft. “This is understood thoroughly by most of the Asians, partially by Latinos, and to a tragically small degree by much of the American black community.”