The State of Latino Contributions

By: Daniel Nardini

And so the propaganda against Latinos continues from many extreme rightwing quarters from the Minutemen who “patrol” the U.S.-Mexico border and harass Latinos (both legal and undocumented) to the Federation of Americans for Immigration Reform who argue for “zero” or “minimal” immigration and to the John Birch Society that calls Latino immigration to America part of the “reconquista.” Just as despicable are the number of Republicans who have used immigrant bashing as part of their platform. We have seen too much of this over the past three years. It is sad that study after study have shown more than anything else that Latinos have made invaluable contributions to the United States and have helped this country’s economy during these uncertain times. Now another study has come out to prove this point. The University of Notre Dame’s Institute for Latino Studies has published a report called “The State of Latino Chicago.” Although it mostly deals with Chicago, it also talks about the Chicago area and the counties around Cook County.

According to the report, Latinos make up 22 percent of the current workforce. That is a hefty percentage, and one that does not come up in the anti-immigrant media. But the significance is not just in the numbers but in what they mean. This workforce helps pump in $23 billion a year in wages, tax revenue and in investments. Latinos own 50,000 businesses in Chicago that generate $2.2 billion in revenue, and these businesses help keep 170,000 people employed. This is no small number when you consider that those who are employed because of Latino businesses does not include the distributors for many of these businesses and the property tax revenues that help keep parts of Chicago alive and vibrant. If these businesses did not exist then whole neighborhoods would be abandoned and scenes of crime and decay—the way it was in the 1970’s in many parts of Chicago. Bear in mind that these business owners also most likely own homes and pay property taxes that keep Chicago and many suburban towns going.

These same Latino residents pay taxes for our schools and for the many city programs that help Chicago run. It does not matter whether they are legal or undocumented. It is unimaginable what Chicago and surrounding suburbs would be like without 22 percent of its current labor force. Without Latinos, Chicago as a city would most probably still be in population decline since a hefty number of Latinos now compose a growing percentage of the city. Certainly the revenue would not be there, and Chicago would not be the third largest city in the United States but probably even smaller. Far from being a leech, the Latino population and labor force should be seen as a great asset and part of our future for a better America.

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