To kick off Immigrant Heritage month, a group of pro-immigrant leaders from the public and private sectors and philanthropy gathered Wednesday to participate in the “2022 Los Angeles Immigration Summit: Intersections, Power and Justice ”.
Presentations detailed the contribution of immigrants in Los Angeles County but also highlighted the high need and lack of resources for many including the undocumented, seniors and essential workers.
Some presenters agreed that the covid-19 pandemic had reaffirmed inequalities and highlighted failures in the economy, racism, immigration and health.
Manuel Pastor, a professor and researcher at the USC Dornsife Center, said that while the state of California seems to be doing very well because of the huge current surplus, this only underscores the inequality.
He indicated that there has been this huge transfer of income to those who are at the top of the income distribution because of their participation in the stock market, in real estate, etc. and because of the progressive income tax and that more taxes are being paid.
“That is not a success. That is a kind of signal that the economy cannot produce more equitable results from the beginning, before we start taxing and transferring,” said Pastor.
The professor added that when talking about the brilliant successes of the California economy, people think of high technology, biotechnology and entertainment, to name a few examples.
“But what I like to say is that behind every software engineer is an army of babysitters, gardeners and food service workers,” Pastor said. “And our future economy is all about these high-paying service jobs like software developer, but next to them are these low-paying service jobs where we need to increase pay at the base, continue to raise the minimum wage, improve the conditions for unionization, and much more”.
In Los Angeles County, it is estimated that more than 1 in 3 Angelenos, or 3.6 million, are immigrants. The “State of Immigrants in Los Angeles 2022” report highlights the position of immigrants in Los Angeles.
It is estimated that the immigrant population of Los Angeles is the one that has lived here the longest; an average of 10 years in 4 out of 5 immigrants. 36% of Latinos indicated that they have lived in the county for more than 30 years. The number of undocumented immigrants is even higher, with 70% indicating that they have been residing in the county for more than 10 years.
The report, which is already in its third consecutive year of publication, identified immigrant groups by subgroups such as indigenous people, the LGBTQ+ community, the elderly, among others. All this to demonstrate the specific need of each group.
The report presented a 5-year analysis conducted by the USC Equity Research Institute from 2019 and revealed that Latino immigrants had the lowest median salary of all Angelenos. An average of $14 an hour, followed by Pacific Islander immigrants and US-born Latinos at $19 an hour.
US-born black and Latino immigrant households showed the highest barriers to income equality at $45,200 and $47,000 annually, respectively.
Immigrant workers countywide face higher rates of “working poverty,” compared to US-born workers. More than 1 in 3 undocumented immigrant workers are employed full time, but still face economic insecurity.
About 61% of undocumented immigrants experience economic insecurity—more than 200% of the federal poverty level—compared to the county average of 35%.
In 2017, it was reported that of the more than 1.2 million immigrants from the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual (LGBT) community in the United States, almost 23% are undocumented.
Looking for equalities at the local level
Angelica Salas, director of CHIRLA, said that the report is very valuable since it shows how much the community contributes but they do not have the salaries or benefits they deserve.
“For me it is very important that the elected representatives in the county and the city channel the resources so that our community can move forward,” Salas said.
He said that another thing that caught his attention is to see that the report included the numbers of the immigrant population that is aging at a poverty level. He said that in this case the community needs resources so that they can have an old age with more opportunities.
Odilia Romero, co-founder and executive director of Comunidades Indígenas en Liderazgo (CIELO), said she was pleased to see in the study that indigenous communities were included and identified exactly by their group and languages to meet their needs.
Los Angeles County is home to many immigrants from various indigenous peoples of Mexico and Central America.
The director that in this way the indigenous are part of the inclusion.
“This helps to see how we are going to have interpreters in the Los Angeles courts, or how we are going to see that the benefits and messages arrive in indigenous languages,” said Romero.
He added that the indigenous community has existed in the United States since the bracero movement but identifies them only as immigrants.
“I think that when he Latinizes us it is something very dangerous because then it is assumed that we speak Spanish and that has even deadly consequences in a court, in hospitals or with the children’s department that can take children away from them because of the language barrier,” Romero explained. “That is why the numbers are important and when talking about immigrants, the narrative has to be changed and within those immigrants there are indigenous peoples and/or Afro-descendants.”
Meanwhile, Francisco Moreno, director of the Council of Mexican Federations (COFEM), said there are still many places where more investment in immigrant communities is needed.
“We essential workers are the ones who have brought the country forward, especially during the pandemic, and we must continue to support it,” said Moreno. “We want the resources that are being swept away from other communities to also reach Latino and immigrant communities.”
To learn more about the report visit: https://dornsife.usc.edu/assets/sites/1411/docs/SOILA_2022_Full_v21.pdf