Since the terrorist attacks two years ago, immigrants have become the object of fear and rage, and, increasingly, the subject of research. Both groups opposed to further immigration and those who advocate for immigrants try to buttress their arguments with the steady flow of reports, studies and findings from think tanks and universities. Four recently released reports, two of them about housing, should give both sides in the debate some fresh ammunition.
IMMIGRANTS AND HOUSING
Latinos are most affected by the lack of affordable and low-rent housing in New York City, according to a new report (in pdf format) by the Center for Puerto Rican Studies. In Latino neighborhoods such as Washington Heights and Bushwick, residents are spending most of their income on rent.
Seventy-three percent of nonimmigrant Latinos and 83 percent of immigrant Latinos rent their home, the highest percentage than other groups (For Blacks, 78 percent for nonimmigrants, 75 percent for immigrants, and, for whites, 53 percent for nonimmigrants, 59 percent for immigrants), noted the study.
" This report equivocally shows that affordable housing should be one of the most important priorities for any elected official who cares about New York's Latino community," study author Carlos Vargas-Ramos told the Daily News.
Another recently released study by the National Housing Conference also found that immigrants are having trouble finding affordable housing. Study author Barbara Lipman used census data and housing survey to analyze immigrants's living condition and found that immigrants are likely to spend more than half of their income on housing.
" Obviously, it's an issue if you're paying half of you income on your housing; what do you have for anything else," she told Fresno Bee. Lipman's study also shows that low and middle income immigrants are six times as likely to live in overcrowded homes.
Last December, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced his plan to preserve 38,000 units of affordable housing, and build 27,000 more over the next five years. Bloomberg has said that he is committed to the plan despite the city's budget deficit.
MOVEMENT OF FOREIGN-BORN POPULATION
A new census report tracking the movement of foreign-born population from 1995 to 2000 found that New York state sent 205,000 more immigrants to other states than it received from them. Similar " gateway" states such as California and Illinois also lost their foreign born population to other states.
Some believe that immigrants are leaving the "gateway" states for the same reasons natives do: to find affordable housing and a better standard of living.
" It's a middle-class flight motivated by cost and congestion," demographer William Frey told USA Today.
However, the same census report also shows that New York state had a constant supply of new immigrants, with 583,769 people who were born in another country entering the state in the same five-year period.
In New York City alone, foreign born population accounts for 36 percent of the city's 8 million total population, according to 2000 Census.
IMMIGRANTS AND WAGES
A new study by University of California researcher Liza Catanzarite shows that newly arrived Hispanic immigrant workers drove down wages in working class and service jobs.
By analyzing 1990 Census data of male workers in 38 US metropolitan areas, including New York City, Catanzarite found that both native people born and immigrants earned on the average 11 percent less than others in comparable fields when they worked along side newly arrived Hispanic males.
" These findings push us to understand that wage penalties in 'brown collar' occupations stem from newcomer Latinos' marginal status, and not from immigration per se," Catanzarite told the Associated Press.
The term "brown collar" refers to occupations where Latinos are over represented, mainly low-level service and manufacturing jobs, according to the study. Immigrant Latinos constitute as much as 40-71 percent of workers in many of these fields.
Catanzarite also noted that new Hispanic immigrants are unable to resist low wages and have little political power to demand higher pay. She suggested that better protections for immigrants will, in turn, help raise wages for all.
An immigrant from Bangkok, Thailand, Chaleampon Ritthichai is the editor of The Citizen.