The Positive Economic Impacts of Immigrants in North Carolina

By Armando Bellmas

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Immigrants contribute substantially to North Carolina’s economy. The 2010 purchasing power of North Carolina’s Latino population totaled $14.2 billion — an increase of 1,601.2% since 1990. The state’s 21,301 Latino-owned businesses had sales and receipts of $4.2 billion and employed over 19,000 people.

With 5.4% (or 250,000 workers) of North Carolina’s workforce comprised of unauthorized immigrants, the assumption of many residents, including State Representatives in Raleigh, is that unauthorized immigrants are a burden to the economy and resources of our state. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Unauthorized immigrants in North Carolina, in households that potentially include U.S. Citizens, paid $317.7 million in state and local taxes in 2010. These taxes, vital sources of revenue for the state of North Carolina, include state income taxes, property taxes (even if they rent), and sales taxes. North Carolina ranks 10th in the nation as a state that receives the most tax revenue from households headed by unauthorized immigrants. These figures should be kept in mind as politicians and commentators continue with the seemingly endless debate over what to do with unauthorized immigrants already living in the United States. In spite of the fact that they lack legal status, these immigrants — and their family members — are adding significant value to the North Carolina economy; not only as taxpayers, but as workers, consumers, and entrepreneurs as well.

Anti-immigrant legislation in North Carolina could potentially cost billions in lost economic activity and litigation costs. Arizona has spent nearly $2 million to date defending itself against lawsuits stemming from S.B. 1070. The Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association estimates that the losses stemming from its own anti-immigrant legislation will total at least $250 million in 2011 alone. Conservative estimates show that it would cost Alabama $2.8 billion if it were to deport all 120,000 unauthorized immigrants under its anti-immigrant law H.B. 56.

With government agencies, like the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), and the Department of Revenue (DOR), already facing multi-million dollar resource shortages, anti-immigrant legislation doesn’t make sense. It will cost taxpayers more money, waste vital resources, and undermines common sense.

Simply put: North Carolina can’t afford anti-immigrant legislation.

[Note: The House Select Committee on the State’s Role in Immigration Policy convenes for the second time since its creation in November of 2011 to discuss North Carolina’s role in immigration policy. This meeting, scheduled for Wednesday, January 25, 2012 at 1:00 pm in Raleigh, will focus on reports from DHHS, DMV, DOR.]

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Volunteers needed to teach English as a second language

By Bonnie Carter

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Our Spring 2012 semester of ESL classes will begin February 14, 2012. We are seeking volunteer Co-Instructors and placement test assistance.

About the Coalition’s ESL program

This semester, three of our classes will be offered at night and one will be during the day. The levels we offer will depend upon the outcome of placement testing. The anticipated class levels and times are as follows:

• Basic (Literacy): 10:00-11:00 AM, Mondays and Wednesdays
• Beginner 1 (Low): 6:00-7:30 PM, Tuesdays and Thursdays
• Beginner 2 (High): 7:45-9:15 PM, Tuesdays and Thursdays
• Intermediate/Advanced: 7:45-9:15 PM, Tuesdays and Thursdays

Placement Testing

Placement tests are given before the start of every semester to identify student’s English proficiency level. If you are available to assist with proctoring, grading, or interviewing, please respond with the dates you plan on attending. Tests will be offered on the following dates and times:

• January 17, 19, 24, and 26 from 5:45-7:30 PM

Volunteer Co-Instructor Requirements

• Co-Instructors -Must be available to attend every class 02/13/2012-05/24/2012 and graduation day 05/29/2012.

• Total weekly hours in and out of the classroom: 10

To volunteer as a Co-Instructor, you must attend our training/orientation session on January 28, 2012 from 9:00 am-12:00 PM. Please confirm your attendance to the training/orientation session by sending an email with a completed “Volunteer Information Sheet” to Sharon Cheng, ESL Coordinator.

Clases de inglés en La Coalición

By Sharon Cheng

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[IN SPANISH]

¿Está listo para aprender or mejorar su inglés? La Coalición lo puede ayudar con clases de inglés como segunda idioma o la clases ESL, como se conocen en inglés. La nueva temporada de clases de inglés comenzará el 14 de febrero y dura 15 semanas.

Antes de comenzar las clases se requiere que cada estudiante tome una prueba de aptitud. Este examen determinará en cual nivel cada estudiante se colocará: Básico, Principante 1, Principante 2 o Intermedio/Avanzado. El nivel Básico es para la gente que no hablan o entienden el inglés. El nivel Principante 1 es para los estudiantes que hablan o entienden un poco de inglés, pero no pueden comunicarse con regularidad. Principante 2 es para los estudiantes que hablan y entienden el inglés con confianza y quieren aprender mas sobre gramática y conversación. El nivel Intermedio/Avanzado es para los estudiantes que ya se comunican bien en inglés y quieren fortalecer la gramática, compresión y conversación.

La prueba de aptitud es gratis, dura alrededor de 30 minutos, y no hay que reservar un puesto o hacer cita para tomarla. Los exámenes de prueba de aptitud en inglés se llevarán a cabo aquí en La Coalición en el horario siguiente:

Martes, 17 de enero a las 6:00 pm
Jueves, 19 de enero a las 6:00 pm
Martes, 24 de enero a las 6:00 pm
Jueves, 26 de enero a las 6:00 pm

Despues del exámen le diremos cual nivel le recomendamos. El costo de las clases de inglés es $75 y incluye el libro de estudio y un certificado de participación. El horario de clases, que comenzarán el 14 de febrero y siguen hasta el 24 de mayo, es el siguiente:

Básico: lunes y miércoles de 10:00-11:30 am
Principante 1: martes y jueves de 6:00-7:45 pm
Principante 2: martes y jueves de 7:45-9:15 pm
Intermedio/Avanzado: martes y jueves de 7:45-9:15 pm

Si tiene cualquier pregunta sobre los exámenes de aptitud, las clases de inglés, el horario, el currículo o los instructores, entre otros, comuníquese con Sharon Cheng al 704-941-2553 o por correo electrónico.

Charlotte’s first baby of 2012

By Jess George

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Response to “Charlotte’s first baby of the year” in the Charlotte Observer (Jan. 3):

The Observer published an article celebrating the first Charlottean born in 2012, a boy of Latino heritage named Tommy. What followed was a litany of hateful and racist comments posted on the Observer website, so profane that site administrators disabled all comments.

While I commend the Observer for removing hate speech, we can do more to curb anti-immigrant and anti-Latino sentiments. For example, we, including the Observer, need to stop using the word “illegal” when describing undocumented immigrants. It’s offensive, dehumanizing and perpetuates stereotypes and comments like those removed from the website.

By using accurate and respectful language the Observer can help reframe this issue. Then maybe we can get back to cooing over babies instead of sending them hate mail.

Jess George
Executive Director
Latin American Coalition

Inglés como su segundo idioma

By Armando Bellmas

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Después de un semestre de quince semanas, La Coalición celebró el éxito de los 14 estudiantes — o mejor dicho, graduados — del programa de inglés como segundo idioma (ESL).  El 15 de noviembre del 2011, los alumnos participaron en una ceremonia de graduación, celebrando con sus parientes, amigos, instructores voluntarios y empleados de La Coalición.

Los estudiantes dijeron que durante el curso aumentaron su capacidad para hablar, escribir y comprender el inglés. Los instructores voluntarios, quienes vieron sus estudiantes trabajando duro y exitosamente todo el semestre, también estaban muy orgullosos de ellos. Cada estudiante recibió un diploma de postgrado para conmemorar la ocasión y su realización.

Las clases de ESL (inglés como segunda idioma) de La Coalición duran quince semanas y se ofrecen en tres niveles (pendiente del interés): principiante, intermedio y avanzado. Nuestro programa de idiomas es facilitado por instructores voluntarios y estudiantes avanzados en inglés y que conocen bien a las necesidades de nuestra comunidad. Los voluntarios son entrenados por la Universidad de Carolina del Norte en Charlotte, hablan español y están listos para enseñar el inglés a cualquier nivel. Su éxito es nuestro objetivo.

Las próximas clases de inglés comenzarán el 14 de febrero del 2012. Para más información sobre las clases o cómo registrarse, llámenos al 704-941-2553.

La intimidación en la escuela

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[SPANISH]

La intimidación, o ‘bullying’ (como se dice en inglés), es un problema que lamentablemente ha crecido durante los últimos años, especialmente en las comunidades donde la población latina también ha crecido.

En las últimas dos semanas, La Coalición ha documentado siete casos de intimidación que han sucedido en las escuelas públicas. Con confianza, nuestros clientes se han presentado con cuentos de intimidaciónes obscenas, raciales y comentarios derogatorios. Son experiencias fuertes que sus hijos e hijas han tenido que sufrir en la escuela. Y todo porque los niños son latinos y los que humillan usan ese tema como la base de los insultos.

La Regla 8 del Código de Conducta del Estudiante de los colegios de Charlotte-Mecklenburg (CMS) dice: “Un estudiante usará lenguaje y conducta apropiada en la escuela y en funciones escolares y poseerá únicamente los materiales apropiados. Esta regla se aplica al decir malas palabras, poseer materiales escritos o mensaje de texto y/o una imagen que pueda ser ofensivos, raciales, derogatorios, intimidantes u obscenos a otra persona (incluyendo pero no limitado hacer referencias de la raza, color, antepasados, origen nacional, género, identidad o expresión de género, orientación sexual, religión, y/o discapacidad física o sensorial, apariencia física o hacer gestos o comentarios ofensivos). La intimidación y/o el acoso son estrictamente prohibidos.”

Cada caso documentado por La Coalición ha estado relacionado con intimidación con referencia a la raza, color, u origen nacional del estudiante, que es objeto del ataque. Estas intimidaciones terminan en una pelea, muchas veces física, y todos los jóvenes involucrados metidos en un lío. Además, las acusaciones típicamente no se están refiriendo al problema que causo la pelea, la intimidación, si no solo al incidente de ese día.  En cada caso que hemos documentado, los niños han tenido dificultades defendiéndose, quizás por no hablar inglés bien o por no saber cómo defenderse. Los padres también han encontrado obstáculos con oficiales de CMS. Por eso confían en La Coalición.

Si su hijo o hija ha sido intimidado en la escuela por otro estudiante o un adulto, deben referirse al Código de Conducta del Estudiante de CMS para más información. Se encuentra, en español, en el sitio web de CMS: http://www.cms.k12.nc.us/Pages/espanol.aspx.

También visiten a La Coalición y compartan sus historias con nosotros. Estamos acumulando los casos con el fin de traerlos a la atención de CMS.

Volunteer of the Month for November 2011

By Bonnie Carter

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I have said it many times, our volunteers are like family. They walk through our beige office doors as mere strangers and before you know it, they are sitting at our kitchen table laughing at jokes during lunch. This has never been truer than with this month’s volunteer of the month, Armando.

Armando started off with the youth groups of the Coalition. With United 4 the DREAM he has helped educate the public about anti-immigrant legislation and the harsh realities undocumented citizens face everyday. Fulfilling a huge need in the Latino community, he and College Access Para Todos work to give Latino and undocumented students the information they need to attend college. Now he finds himself doing a little bit of everything from making copies, to setting up before our cultural events while continuing to be actively involved in U4TD and CAPT, and keeping up with his school work. Counting the days Armando is not here at the Coalition would be a hard task. He is constantly asking how he can help and if any of the staff members need anything.

Armando has now set his sights on a new goal, the Latin American Coalition’s Board of Directors. I asked him if there is anything else he is interested in doing here and with enthusiasm he responded, “There is one thing, getting on the Board!” He says, “I just thought… if I got on the board while I’m young, it would just make a difference for me, like I achieved something.”

Welcome to the family, Armando. Congratulations on being this month’s volunteer of the month!

Our Volunteer Program is funded by Hispanics in Philanthropy Funders’ Collaborative for Strong Latino Communities.

NC Legislators’ Immigration Race to the Bottom

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The White House’s and Congress’ continued inaction on responsible immigration reform has led to disaster and crisis, for state governments, local officials, and families alike. But the most serious side effect of this egregious abdication of responsibility is the “open season” many politicians seem to have declared against hard-working immigrant families. In North Carolina, for example, a sheriff’s racist remarks in 2008, used to describe the Latino community during a news interview, resulted not in condemnation but instead praise and adoration. The elected official’s popularity spiked and a Facebook group seeking his re-election was created. Is this really the America we thought we knew?

The immigration crisis has been compounded in the absence of federal oversight as states have taken it upon themselves to institute new immigration laws, policies, and regulations. Last year Arizona passed SB1070 into law; it has since inspired over a dozen states to introduce (and some even passed) similar legislation. The North Carolina General Assembly hasn’t yet advanced its own versions of Arizona’s SB1070, but there are reasons for concern as state lawmakers here embark on a race to the bottom to out-do similar legislative initiatives like those in Arizona, Alabama, and Georgia.

Leaders in North Carolina General Assembly have formed the new Select Committee on the State’s Role in Immigration Policy. Its co-chairmen, Rep. Frank Iler of Brunswick County and Rep. Harry Warren of Rowan County have made no qualms about their intentions. Iler recently told his local newspaper, “My personal opinion is that we need to make North Carolina as unwelcome for any illegal alien from wherever they come from.”

News about this committee’s genesis began to circulate within immigrant advocate circles just a few days after a federal judge’s decision to uphold provisions of the most draconian state-level immigration laws, passed in Alabama earlier this year. Are these North Carolina legislators seeking to out-south Alabama, a state now in chaos as immigrant families are being persecuted by their state government and being denied even the most basic of human needs? Yes, in Alabama undocumented immigrants are being denied service by local water utilities, who claim they’re merely seeking compliance with their state’s new immigration law. Alabama elected officials have been transparent and even celebratory in the effects of their new immigration attrition law which has resulted in the undocumented community in that state self-deporting.

Iler’s recent interview raised several red flags, including that he and the co-chairman, Rep. Warren, held a private meeting to “discuss the mission” of the newly formed committee. Where is the transparency that the new Republican majority promised at the start of the 2011 legislative session? Also concerning is that these two legislators have been some of the staunchest supporters of anti-immigrant bills proposed in this year’s legislative session. One of the bills that they co-sponsored is HB11, a bill that would have denied access to higher education for undocumented students. Warren also co-sponsored HB 744, a bill that in its original version would have done part of what the new Alabama immigration law does– require those tasked with educating the next generation to become de facto immigration agents and inquire into the legal status of public school children. The support these legislators and other committee members have given to some of the most violently anti-immigrant bills proposed in North Carolina is an indication of types of legislation they will likely pursue.

Rather than focusing on creating more challenges, these legislators should be working on creating solutions to joblessness in their counties and our state. Seeking immigration attrition legislation in hopes that it would subsequently create jobs for U.S. residents and citizens is baseless. In fact, we already know that Arizona’s unemployment rate increased every month since SB1070 was signed into law, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Passing immigration attrition legislation at the state level does not create jobs and does nothing to solve the federal issue of immigration. Instead, such legislation only harms families and children.

I’m confident sensible North Carolinians – the majority, I’m sure – understand that ill-treatment of immigrants by way of hurtful language by politicians and punitive policies and legislation is dreadfully wrong and immoral. Silence in the face of such aggression and injustice implies consent. Though we don’t yet know what this new committee will prioritize, we do know the direction they’ll pursue – one that ultimately hurts families, business, education, and every infrastructure of our state. I encourage my fellow, well-meaning Tar Heels to speak out now before it is too late. We in North Carolina take pride in our progressive, fair-minded history. Our forward-thinking reputation has lent itself to growth here in business and education, as people from all over the world continue to travel to North Carolina for work and to learn at our world-class universities. Pursuing any type of restrictionist legislation that will target those with brown skin and foreign accents will do unimaginable damage to our great state, its business, its reputation and its dear people.

Padres en la onda

by Armando Bellmas

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[SPANISH]

Empezó cuando Susana Jerez, Directora del Centro de Recursos aquí en la Coalición Latinoamericana, se dio cuenta que había un grupo de adultos sentados afuera de la Coalición esperando a sus hijos, que estaban adentro asistiendo nuestro programa educativo para la juventud, College Access Para Todos.

“Que locura tener un grupo de adultos afuera de la Coalición y no darle un lugar en donde estar.” La directora abrió las puertas de la Coalición. “Y si ya que le dábamos un lugar en donde estar de repente habían unas preguntas que ellos quisieran hacer, de cualquier cosa inicialmente. Encontramos que estos adultos, los padres de los estudiantes, tenían preguntas y un interés profundo en el futuro de sus hijos.” Así comenzó Padres en la Onda.

“Lo invitamos para decirle que es lo que estaban haciendo los muchachos durante College Access Para Todos y se ha transformado.” El entusiasmo de Jerez es evidente. “Siempre hay un enfoque en la parte educativa, las preguntas sobre la educación. Pero se están transformando en un grupo de adultos que realmente quieren llevar a cabo cierto liderazgo. Están viendo que la Coalición es su casa para hacerlo y que nosotros solamente vamos a reaccionar a las necesidades que ellos tengan.”

Por ejemplo, una semana los padres se reunen y Jerez y su asistente Maritza Solano simplemente contestan preguntas. La próxima semana hablan sobre que están haciendo sus hijos, cuales son las opciones para los estudios y que es lo que tienen que saber.

“Empezamos hace dos meses con 5 personas y la semana pasada asistieron como 30 personas,” relata Jerez. “Los muchachos que vienen para College Access Para Todos ya saben que pueden venir sus padres y los padres saben al igual que pueden venir con los hijos. Se enteran de una forma u otra.”

¿Quiere saber más sobre la educación de su hijo o hija? Está invitado a Padres en la Onda y College Access Para Todos. Nos reúnimos cada miércoles de 6:30 a 8:00 pm

Volunteer of the Month for October 2011

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As a student at UNC-Charlotte studying Spanish, Nancy wanted an opportunity to immerse herself in the language and culture. Originally a Women’s Advocate volunteer with our Domestic Violence Program, she now finds herself doing much more. Nancy teaches a basic level computer class in Spanish, conducts phone surveys to clients to measure their satisfaction, assists clients with their resumes, translates job postings, and does follow up with potential employers. On top of all of this, she is one of our biggest cheerleaders outside of the Coalition, recruiting fellow students as volunteers, and encouraging professors to become involved.

As a Women’s Advocate, Nancy accompanies victims of domestic violence to their court hearings, not to speak on their behalf, but to act as their support system throughout the process. Her most memorable experience was her first visit to the courthouse in uptown Charlotte. She says, “I was so struck by how huge, and cold, and austere the place is. And, it’s my native town and country. I was struck by how intimidating it really must be for someone who can’t even read the signs, and communicate to find a courtroom.”

Being a volunteer at the Coalition has changed her perspective. “I would say that I am more aware of the amount of need that’s out there, the plight of undocumented citizens, what a complex issue it is, and how it really needs to be discussed…They’re just trying to make a life.”

Nancy has been instrumental in continuing the development of the Women’s Advocate group.  Her ambitious plans for the future include establishing a Latina co-op for women and begin conducting interview training for workers.  Thank you, Nancy, for your countless hours of service. We are truly lucky to have you.

Our Volunteer Program is funded by Hispanics in Philanthropy Funders’ Collaborative for Strong Latino Communities.