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Archive for the ‘Economy’ Category

Are Latinos Saving Nebraska’s Economy?

Dan Mulhall owns a plant nursery and landscaping firm. He employs about 200 seasonal employees, who usually work for nine months a year. Mulhall says he’s tried to comply with immigration law, applying for temporary work visas for his workers. But the visas run out quickly and it’s hard to find all the workers he needs among Nebraska’s residents. So two years ago, an immigration audit found more than forty of his workers were not authorized to work in the US and he had to fire them. The workers went to work for a local competitor.

“I won’t begrudge the guys or gals for doing that,” says Mulhall. “I’m glad they didn’t have to leave. It’s just the system doesn’t make sense to us, it doesn’t work.”

Nebraska’s Latino population has increased rapidly in the past two decades. There are not near 200,000 Latinos, roughly more than ten percent the total state population. Most of the growth comes from native-born Latinos, but also from immigration from other US states.

“Nebraska is a state that desperately loses population,” says Lourdes Gouveia, a sociologist at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. “If it was not for immigration it would’ve lost population the last two censuses.”

Like other studies on immigration economics in the United States, several studies from the University of Nebraska show that Latino immigration has had a positive impact on the state’s economy. “The data is incontrovertible: immigrants contribute two and a half billion plus a year to production to the state,” says Goveia. “They generate nearly 20,000 jobs and they pay taxes a little above of what they receive in benefits.” The studies, however, do not distinguish between documented and undocumented immigrants.

A big example of the Latino immigrants’ impact on the economy is the state’s meatpacking industry. During the 1970s, the sector’s unions were busted. The wages plummeted, the benefits and pensions disappeared and the jobs stopped being attractive to locals. So in the 1980s, industry leaders revamped the sector, moving factories to the countryside into towns like Fremont and Lexington in Nebraska. To find the new workforce, they turned to Latino immigrants in California, Texas, and soon they even moved south of the border.

The industry’s new reality is that the cattlemen and meatpacking factory owners would struggle to fill the jobs without the new Latino workforce. 

Opponents of immigration turn to the Federation for American Immigration Reform – FAIR – for numbers against immigration. FAIR believes this incoming undocumented immigrant workforce is actually hurting the state’s economy, and that it’s the cause of declining wages and the quality of jobs. Their studies say that business owners pocket the profits while American taxpayers are left to pick up the check for healthcare and school for the incoming undocumented Latino immigrants.  

“What we are doing is creating a subsidized labor pool for a lot of industries,” says Ira Mehlman, FAIR spokesperson. “These are not mom and pop shops. And it’s another form of subsidy.”

FAIR advocates for a return to high-paying jobs in sectors of the economy. And they want reforms and law enforcement that will make undocumented workers leave on their own. “If you make it clear to people that even if you can get into the United States illegally, you’re not going to get a job because the government is out there policing the labor force, the jobs are going to dry up,” says Mehlman.

The University of Nebraska’s studies find that the foreign-born workforce in the state put more money in through income, gas and sales taxes than they take in social services. It’s also unlikely that wages will hike in the near future, attracting more of the native-born workforce. But what is certain is that the new immigrant workforce has become vital to many of Nebraska’s key industries.

Even as Nebraska’s Latino population grows, the state will remain predominantly white, even in 2060 when Latinos become 25 percent of the population. Lourdes Goveia says that the new Latino workforce is the new reality of the state, and that the immigrants have become an easy target for political electioneering from outside the state.








Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images 

The U.S. Auto Sector Went South…To Mexico

There are many reasons why immigration from Mexico to the U.S. has come to a virtual standstill. A slow U.S. economy, an increase in border security, and the passage of “show me your papers” laws in many states. But another reason that might not be so obvious is that right now, Mexico’s economy is booming.

Last year, it grew by 4 percent, four times the rate of Brazil’s economy. Reporter Marlon Bishop explains that a lot of the growth is due to high-tech manufacturing.


Marlon Bishop_new headshotMarlon Bishop is a radio producer, writer, and reporter based in New York. His work is focused on music, Latin America, New York City and the arts. He is a frequent contributor to WNYC, Studio 360, The World, Latino USA and MTV Iggy. He is an Associate Producer for Afropop Worldwide.

California as a Crystal Ball

California is demographically ahead of the curve: its Latino population has outpaced that of the rest of the country. So how have the institutions and culture adapted? Maria Hinojosa asks Kimberly Nalder of the Project for an Informed Electorate and Belinda Reyes of the Cesar Chavez Institute, and takes a few audience questions.

Photo courtesy of

B2_Kimberly NadlerKimberly Nalder is the director of the Project for an Informed Electorate and associate professor in the Department of Government at California State University Sacramento.



B2_ belinda reyes

Formerly a research fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California, Belinda Reyes is an authority on immigration policy and the social and economic progress of racial and ethnic groups in the United States and director of the Cesar Chavez Institute at San Francisco State University.

Immigration And Tech

It’s not just Latinos who are hoping the government shutdown ends and Congress can get back to work on immigration reform. The business community, and in particular the tech sector, wants to see legislation too. Brad Smith, Microsoft’s general counsel and executive vice president, talks with Maria Hinojosa about why he cares about immigration reform. He discusses how essential immigrant workers are for the tech sector, and the American economy as a whole.

Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons

And check out the extended interview here:

smith_printBrad Smith is Microsoft’s general counsel and executive vice president, Legal and Corporate Affairs. He joined Microsoft in 1993, and before becoming general counsel in 2002 he spent three years leading the LCA team in Europe, then five years serving as the deputy general counsel responsible for LCA’s teams outside the United States. He has played a leadership role locally and nationally on numerous charitable, diversity, business and legal initiatives. He recently was named by the National Law Journal as one of the 100 most influential lawyers in the United States.


Food Stamp Fight

This November 1st, Americans receiving food stamps will have a little less to eat. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, was expanded during the recession as part of the 2009 Stimulus Package. Food stamp enrollment in the US has doubled between 2007 and now, from 26 million to 48 million people. But on November 1st, this expansion is set to expire, and millions of Americans will see their benefits reduced. Meanwhile, Congress is considering further cuts to the program. Producer Diana Montaño talks to New Yorkers to see how these cuts will affect them.

Photo by Latino USA


Diana HeadshotDiana Montaño is a Mexico City-born, East Coast-raised producer for Latino USA. Before coming on board, she worked as an editor at the Phnom Penh Post in Cambodia and as an associate producer with Radio Bilingüe in California. Diana has also taught video production to immigrant and refugee youth in Oakland, and to young indigenous women in the highlands of Chiapas, Mexico. She is a graduate of the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism

News or Noise? The Intern Edition

Interns are challenging their unpaid status in court. In recent one federal case, courts ruled in their favor, saying they should have been paid for their work. Maria Hinojosa discusses the case and its coverage with journalist and media critic Farai Chidey and Latino USA summer intern Hanna Guerrero.

Image courtesy of

Click here to take the quiz!

Having trouble taking the quiz on your mobile device? Go to the quiz directly here.

head_shot_lasloFarai Chideya has combined media, technology, and socio-political analysis during her 20-year career as an award-winning author and journalist. She is a Distinguished Writer in Residence at New York University’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute


head_shot_lasloHanna Guerrero is a journalism student at DePaul University. She is a summer intern at Latino USA.

Bienvenidos a Woodburn

The increase in Latino populations throughout many U.S. communities in the past two decades may be old news. But in states like Oregon, the change is very recent and very dramatic. Producer Dmae Roberts brings us a portrait of a town transformed in the Beaver state. Woodburn is now 60% Latino, the highest proportion in the state.

Image of the Quinteros at their Woodburn “taquería,” courtesy of Dmae Roberts.

DmaeDmae Roberts is a two-time Peabody award-winning radio artist and writer based in Portland, Oregon who has written and produced more than 500 audio art pieces and documentaries for NPR and PRI. She is a USA Rockefeller Fellow and received the Dr. Suzanne Award for Civil Rights and Social Justice from the Asian American Journalists Association for her Peabody-winning eight-hour Crossing East Asian American history series that ran on 230 stations. Her essay “Finding The Poetry” was published in John Biewen’s essay book Reality Radio (UNC Press).

Repainting Farm Labor… With Blue

For the nearly one-and-a-half million migrant and seasonal farmworkers in the U.S, the solution to legalization no longer lies on a green card, but a “blue card.” A new provision in the Senate immigration reform bill could expedite the path to legalization for immigrant farmworkers seeking permanent residency. Sean Powers reports from Illinois.

Photo courtesy of Sean Powers.

SeanPowersRadioStudioSean Powers is a reporter and digital editor at Illinois Public Media. Powers is a native of the south suburbs of Chicago, and he graduated with a journalism degree from the University of Missouri. In 2012, he completed a fellowship at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. He’s currently working on a master’s degree in the library science program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.


Despite strong protests, the city of Chicago announced it would close 50 neighborhood public schools at the end of this school year. Students from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University reported on several of the schools listed for closure. One was home to an innovative program for children with special needs, the other ran health care and food programs for the neighborhood at large. Bryan Lowry, Jennifer Kirby report. Carrie Eidson contributed to this report.

Image courtesy of Flickr/chicagopublicradio.

Lowry Edit

Bryan Lowry is a graduate student in journalism at Northwestern University’s Medill School, specializing in public affairs reporting. He previously served as an English teacher in the San Francisco Unified School District for three years. The experience of working with children from San Francisco’s often overlooked low-income communities inspired him to embark on a career as journalist to tell the type of stories that sometimes fall through the cracks. He is a native of Pennsylvania and a graduate of Boston University.

KirbyPhotoJen Kirby is a graduate student at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, where she focuses on magazine writing and urban reporting. She previously worked in the non-profit sector and received her bachelor’s degree in international politics from Georgetown University in Washington, DC.


eidsonCarrie Eidson is a graduate student at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, where she focuses on urban affairs reporting. She is a native of Asheville, North Carolina.



In 2000, about 1400 Latino ranchers and farmers sued the US Department of Agriculture for denying them loans based on their ethnicity. Now the agency is offering $1.3 billion in compensation. But there are still many who have not applied to be compensated. KUNM’s Sara Van Note reports from Colorado.

Click here to download this week’s show.

VanNote Sara Van Note is a freelance journalist and educator based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She files locally with KUNM, and has reported on immigration and education issues. She’s inspired by the Southwest’s incredible landscapes and people, and keeps an ear out for rich accents, unexpected birdsong, and watery oases. Sara recently returned from a year in Nicaragua, where she taught kids yoga and English and shared her photos and wonderings on her personal blog and in online news outlets. Her work with a women’s community radio project in northern Nicaragua helped her develop a new understanding of the power of radio.


A new study shows the economic impact of Arkansas’ booming immigrant population. Maria Hinojosa talks with Dr. Sherece West-Scantlebury, president and CEO of the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, about the study’s findings.

Click here to download this week’s show.

Sherece Y. West-Scantlebury is president and CEO of the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, a private, independent foundation whose mission is to improve the lives of all Arkansans in three interrelated areas: economic development; education; and economic, racial and social justice.

Involved in philanthropy for close to 20 years, Dr. West-Scantlebury served as CEO at the Foundation for Louisiana and as a program associate at the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Her professional career includes nearly 25 years of experience in community development, public policy and advocacy, and public service.


The impact of the North American Free Trade Agreement on economies, industries and labor markets across the three countries involved is still a hot issue among experts. Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research weighs the pros and cons of NAFTA, 20 years later.

Click here to download this week’s show.

Dean Baker is the author of The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive, Taking Economics Seriously, False Profits: Recovering from the Bubble Economy, Plunder and Blunder: The Rise and Fall of the Bubble Economy, Social Security: The Phony Crisis (with Mark Weisbrot), and The Benefits of Full Employment (with Jared Bernstein).

He was the editor of Getting Prices Right: The Debate Over the Consumer Price Index, which was a winner of a Choice Book Award as one of the outstanding academic books of the year. He appears frequently on TV and radio programs, including CNN, CBS News, PBS NewsHour, and National Public Radio. His blog, Beat the Press, features commentary on economic reporting. He received his B.A. from Swarthmore College and his Ph.D. in economics from the University of Michigan.


We’ve seen a lot of coverage about immigrant workers being hit the hardest by the recession, but what about recovery? A recent report by the Urban Institute found that immigrant workers are recovering faster than native-born workers despite suffering greater unemployment. For more on the report, we speak to María Enchautegui, Senior Associate at the Urban Institute in Washington, DC.

Click here to download this week’s show.

María E. Enchautegui is an economist with expertise in the area of immigration. She also studies the working conditions of low-wage work. Prior to joining the Urban Institute she served as Senior Economic Advisor to the Assistant Secretary for Policy at the Department of Labor. She also served as professor of Economics at the University of Puerto Rico, where she did her undergraduate work. She holds a PHD in Economics from Florida State University.

Enchautegui is particularly interested in the economics of immigration from the standpoint of the relationship between different population groups in the labor market, the functioning of the low-wage labor market and the factors that promote employment. She has published on the economic impacts of immigration, job quality, nonstandard work schedules, and informal work.

Healthy Food for California Farm Workers

California’s Central Valley, also known as the greatest garden in the world, has by far the highest agricultural production in the country. But ironically, those who work in “the garden,” often don’t benefit from the fresh fruits and vegetables they harvest.

A big portion of the farm workers in the area are Latino and many of their families suffer from health and obesity problems. In a recent survey of California’s farm workers, 45% said they had trouble getting enough healthy food in their diet. Why is this happening?

Reporter Pauline Bartolone traveled to Fresno – the most agriculturally productive county in the nation, to get some answers.

Right-click here to download an .mp3 of this segment.

This feature was produced through the California Endowment Health Journalism Fellowships, a program of the Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism at the University of Southern California.

Watch videos from Central Valley residents. Shot by Russel A. Daniels and produced by Pauline Bartolone.

Susana Cruz explains some of the challenges with getting healthy food in Fresno, CA.

Stuart Woolf on obstacles to Regional Food Systems in the Central Valley.

Cuba’s Economic Reform

The event coincides with the 50th Anniversary of the Bay of Pigs invasion, when in 1961 U.S.- backed Cuban exiles unsuccessfully tried to overthrow Fidel Castro’s government. On the eve of celebrating what Cuban officials once called the victory over “American Imperialism,” ordinary Cubans have mixed feelings about the new economic reforms. Correspondent Reese Erlich reports from Havana.

Right-click here to download an .mp3 of this segment.


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