Reports highlight Asian-American impact

Updated: 2013-05-10 11:18

By Caroline Berg in New York (China Daily)

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Reports highlight Asian-American impact

More than one in four of California's population is an immigrant, making the West Coast state home to the largest number of immigrants in the US. More than half of Californians are Latino or Asian. Latino and Asian entrepreneurs - both foreign-born and native-born - own more than one-quarter of all businesses in the state, while Latino and Asian consumers account for nearly one-third of the state's total purchasing power.

Those are among the findings of updated fact sheets for 20 states released on Thursday by the Immigration Policy Center that highlight the demographic and economic impact of immigrant, Asian and Latino communities in each state. In addition to California, the states are Alabama, Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Vermont.

The reports outline the growth of foreign-born populations in those states in 1990, 2000 and 2011; the percentages of immigrants naturalized as US citizens in 2011; unauthorized immigrant populations, and breaks down voting populations by demographics. They also underline contributions by immigrant workers, entrepreneurs and taxpayers in each state.

"Take the Chinese community, for example - you have a large infusion of highly skilled researchers and scientists in this country," said Haipei Xue of the National Council of Chinese Americans in Washington. "You don't have to prove that academically or on a statistical basis, you just go to Silicon Valley and you can take a look - practically every third person there is Chinese."

The top five states in the US with Asian populations are California, New York, Texas, New Jersey and Hawaii, according to the 2010 US Census. In 2011, California was home to 10.2 million immigrants - greater than the total population of Michigan.

California would lose $301.6 billion in economic activity and about 3.6 million jobs if all unauthorized immigrants were removed, according to the report, and New York would lose $28.7 billion and 137,013 jobs.

In his area, Xue talked about the technology corridor in Virginia where many computer science companies are based and a significant portion of the workforce is made up of Chinese and Indian engineers.

"This is exactly what this country needs," Xue said. "There are so many entrepreneurial Chinese here - everybody's thinking of a startup of some nature now."

In the report on New York, 196,825 Asian-owned businesses had sales and receipts of $50.5 billion and employed 224,575 people in 2007 - the last year for which data is available, according to the US Census Bureau's Survey of Business Owners.

"I understand the concerns in this country about the low-skilled, low-educated immigrants that have become a drag on the society, including welfare programs," Xue said. "There are always two sides to the coin."

Xue emphasized that even on the low-skilled level, the Chinese immigrant community is often an active contributor to US society. For example, a large portion of the Fujianese immigrant population chooses to open and run restaurants in their communities, he said.

Erin Oshiro of the Asian American Justice Center is working for reform in the family-based immigration system for Asian-Americans. In some cases, it can take up to 23 years for family members to be reunited on US soil.

Apart from the emotional toll, family separations can affect individual productivity. Oshiro said a significant portion of Asian-American immigrant communities rely on mom and pop businesses. They use their families to pool resources, but when families are broken up, it hinders their productivity, he said..

"Given the basic profile of our community, I think the argument that the Asian American immigrant community benefits the country is true," Xue said. "It is undoubtedly true."

(China Daily 05/10/2013 page1)