Translators in the City on Election Day
Due to Lowell’s diverse community, many citizens are in need of language assistance when they go to the polls to vote on Election Day. The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) conducted exit polling of approximately 300 Asian-Americans in Lowell and in the Boston area on November 8, 2005. Survey results showed that roughly one-third of Cambodian-Americans exercised their right to vote for the first time and that about half of them expressed difficulty reading English and/or needed help of a translator. A total of 90% of 116 voters surveyed in Lowell were of Cambodian decent.
Lowell area non-profits, including ONE Lowell, have provided for the all-volunteer corps of foreign language translators at the city’s polls. There hasn’t been a problem with lack of translators at the polls yet because volunteers have stepped up and done it or else people bring their own friend with them. Because there are no financial resources for translators, you can never guarantee that they’re going to be there every year, unless someone steps up to the plate.
One of the major issues in our public schools is truancy. On an average day in Lowell, 1,280 students are absent from school. Absenteeism often translates into retention and dropping out of school. High school completion rates calculated by the National Center for Education Statistics reflect a sad reality for Lowell’s immigrant and refugee students. Of 218 Latino students who entered Lowell High in 1998, only 51 (23%) actually received a diploma in 2002. Immigrant students also have a very high rate of suspension. In the 2004-2005 school year, nearly one-half of the Hispanic student population was suspended from the Wang Middle School with 24% of those being repeat offenders. Although Latino students are only 15% of the student population at LHS, they represent 25% of all students held back for another year, especially at the 9th grade level. Asian students, the majority of whom are Cambodian, also have difficulty completing school. Their completion rate was only slightly higher, with 50% of students entering in 1998 receiving a diploma in 2002.
ONE Lowell is at the forefront of this issue with our School Success for Newcomer Parents’ Initiative.
In-state tuition bill – ONE Lowell has worked for three years, along with other organizations around the state, to pass this bill which would allow immigrant students who: have attended public schools in Massachusetts for at least three years, have graduated from high school in Massachusetts and have applied and been accepted at a public college or university, to pay the same in-state tuition rates as their peers, regardless of immigration status. The student would have to show that they have applied for their green card, or that they will do so as soon as they are eligible. This bill was defeated in the House in early January (of 2006), by a vote of 57 – 96. Erroneous arguments over lawsuits, the payment of taxes, costs to academic institutions, and residency requirement, coupled with an outlandish use of stereotypes and a mean spirited desire to punish children as a means to punish parents were key in seeing this effort defeated.
Budget / Citizenship Services – As of February 2006, Line-Item 4003-0122, (Low-Income Citizenship Program), has allocated $500,000 in the Governor’s budget to support immigrants on their path to citizenship, a journey which takes at least 5 years for most. However, more than 300,000 legal immigrants in Massachusetts are eligible for, or in the process of, naturalization to become U.S. citizens; 18,501 immigrants are on waiting lists to receive ESOL classes in Boston. $500,000 is not enough. At a cost of $16.67 per immigrant, the state of Massachusetts could provide ESOL classes, civics classes and provide technical assistance, if the legislature would include $5 million for the citizenship program.
MYTH 1. Migration is Caused by Lack of Economic Development in Migrants’ Home Countries
International migrants do not originate in the world’s poorest nations, but in those that are developing and growing dynamically. The largest single source of U.S. immigrants, Mexico, is not a poor nation by global standards. Mexico has a one-trillion dollar economy, a per capita income of almost $9,000 (compared to $9,700 in Russia), a fully industrialized economy, a high level of urbanization, and an advanced life expectancy.
MYTH 2. Migration is Caused by Rapid Population Growth in Migrants’ Home Countries
The fertility rate in Mexico is about 2.3 children per woman, which is only slightly above “replacement” level. The highest fertility levels are generally observed in the Arab world and Sub-Saharan Africa, but these regions contribute few migrants to global streams.
MYTH 3. Migrants Move Mainly in Response to Differences in Wages
Households use international migration as a tool to overcome failed or missing markets for insurance, capital, and credit at home. For example, because Mexico has virtually no mortgage banking industry, a large share of the money earned by Mexican immigrants in the United States is channeled into the construction or purchase of homes in Mexico.
MYTH 4. Migrants Are Attracted to the United States by Generous Public Benefits
Immigrants are less likely than natives to use public services. While 66 percent of Mexican immigrants report the withholding of Social Security taxes from their paychecks and 62 percent say that employers withhold income taxes, only 10 percent say they have ever sent a child to U.S. public schools, 7 percent indicate they have received Supplemental Security Income, and 5 percent or less report ever using food stamps, welfare, or unemployment compensation.
MYTH 5. Most Mexican Migrants Intend to Settle Permanently in the United States
Mexico-U.S. migration has historically been circular: 80 percent of Mexican migrants report that they made no more than three trips to the United States and three quarters stayed less than two years.
From: Five Myths About Immigration: Common Misconceptions
Underlying U.S. Border-Enforcement Policy
(The first in a two part series on Rethinking Immigration)
by Douglas S. Massey, Ph.D.*
The Truth about Immigrants
They Work Hard
From the mid ‘80’s to 1997, immigrants were responsible for 82% of the net growth in Massachusetts’ civilian labor force. Immigrant workers are essential for the U.S. economy, filling jobs ranging from computer programmers to hotel and restaurant workers.
They Pay Taxes
Each year, immigrants collectively contribute a net $10 billion to the U.S. economy, while individually, each pays $1,800 more in taxes than he or she receives in benefits.
They Support Themselves
In the 1980’s nearly all immigrants (98%) were self-supporting. The 1996 welfare reform laws further restricted use of public benefits by immigrants, thereby increasing even further the number of self- supported immigrants.
They Want To Learn English
All newcomers want to learn and are learning English. Learning English enables them to get an education, find a better job, obtain services, and apply for citizenship.
They Want To Become Citizen
Over time, most immigrants become citizens. Once they become citizens, immigrants also take a more active role in the civic life of the community.
They Are Like Us
Like native born Americans, immigrants and refugees love their children, work hard to give them a good life, have strong religious values, cherish their freedom, and embrace the American way of life.
- “As of 2004, 14.3% of Massachusetts residents (906,866) were born in another country, a large increase from 1980 when 9.4% of the population was foreign-born.”1
- “From 200 to 2004, 172,054 new immigrants entered the Bay State. Without these immigrants, the population of Massachusetts would have shrunk.”1
- “Between 1980 and 2004, the share of immigrants in our labor force nearly doubled from 8.8% to 17%.”1
- “Since 2000, the state’s labor force is estimated to have grown by less than 1%. Without immigrants, the state’s labor force would have shrunk.” 1
- “Of the immigrants who arrived between 2000 and 2004, 47.3% were from Latin America and the Caribbean and another 23.1% were from Asia. From 2000 to 2003, nearly 1 out of 5 immigrants (19%) was Brazilian.” 1
- “Of the immigrant workers who arrived in the 1990’s, 1 in 4 (45,000 workers) had limited English-speaking skills.” 1
- “On average, an immigrant who only spoke English at home earned 2.5 times as much as an immigrant who did not speak English well ($38,526 vs. $14,221).” 1
- “The immigrants who joined the labor force in the 1990’s were almost 3 times as likely as native-born adults to lack a high school diploma.” 1
- “The average earnings of an immigrant college graduate are $40,179 compared with $14,687 for immigrant high school drop-outs.” 1
- “Seventy-one percent of adult immigrants in Massachusetts are not prepared for the knowledge economy. 245,161 immigrants either lack a high school diploma or have limited English-speaking skills. Another 221,986 immigrants lack the literacy skills needed in today’s economy.” 1
- “Immigrant home purchases [in Lowell] increased significantly between 1990 and 2000: by 82% among Latinos and 164% among Southeast Asians.”2
- “91% of [immigrant homebuyers in Lowell] have been in the United States from 7 to 30 years.” 2
- “More than 50% of these immigrant homebuyers [in Lowell] are already American citizens.” 2
- “Immigrant homebuyers are distributed among specific neighborhoods of the city [of Lowell] with most listing ‘Family and Affordability’ as the major reason for purchasing in a particular area.” 2
- “75 percent [of immigrant homebuyers in Lowell] paid $151,000 and $300,000 for their home.” 2
- “Upon moving into their new home, [immigrant homebuyers in Lowell] 44 percent paid between $1,000 – $10,000 for home repairs and appliances; and 30 percent hired the services of a professional for home repairs.” 2
- According to representatives of the home purchasing and selling industry in Lowell, “immigrant homebuyers represent a major portion of their clientele.”
- “On average, immigrant homebuyers [in Lowell] pay $250,000 or more for their homes.” 2
- A survey of representatives of the home purchasing and selling industry in Lowell showed that, “about half of the respondents had made staffing changes to accommodate their new immigrant consumers with most indicating they employed workers who were culturally and linguistically representative of immigrant clientele.” 2
- “…new immigrants contributed at least 62 percent of resident labor force growth in Massachusetts between 2000 and 2003 and may actually have contributed 90 percent or more.”3
1 “The Changing Face of Massachusetts Executive Summary”, Andrew Sum, Johan Uvin, Ishwar Khatiwada, Dana Ansel; MassINC, June 2005.
2 “Immigrant Homebuyers in Lawrence and Lowell, Massachusetts: Keys to the Revitalization of the Cities”, John Santiago, James Jennings and Luz Carrion; Immigrant Learning Center, Inc., December 2005.
3 “Immigrants are critical to economy”, Andrew Sum, Ishwar Khatiwada, Shelia Palma; The Sun, Lowell, MA, November 20, 2005.