by Rene Villaroman/Asianjournal.com
LOS ANGELES – Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa joined the Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation (LAEDC) as the organization released its study on the impact of stepped-up immigration raids on the Los Angeles economy on Thursday, May 1, the UCLA Labor Center near MacArthur Park.
“It is important to look at the situation,” said Jack Kayser, head of the LAEDC. “We are in troubled times.”
The report which took several months to prepare noted that there are 10,000 fashion, food, and furniture businesses in Los Angeles that employ over 495,000 people, earning $18.3 billion a year. The three industries spend roughly $4.6 billion in purchases for sales-taxable goods in the Los Angeles Area – County and City – earn $106 million tax revenues per year from the economic activities related to the fashion, food, and furniture industries.
There are approximately 12 million undocumented people who work and live in the United States, performing some of the toughest and most essential jobs that sustain the economy and put food on the table. Last August, the Bush administration and the US Congress failed to seize a monumental opportunity to reform the nation’s broken immigration system.
“In time of economic downturn and epidemic levels of gang violence, our Federal government has failed adequately to focus its limited resources,” declared Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. “Instead of deporting criminal gang members and going after exploitive employers who violate work hours and safety rules, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials are targeting legitimate businesses that provide their employees with living wages.”
The LAEDC report also chronicles the Bush administration’s enforcement strategy, which threaten the “bread and butter” industries in Los Angeles such as fashion and furniture manufacturing.
“There is no denying the fact that contributions of immigrant workers in these industries are both indispensable and irreplaceable,” Villaraigosa noted.
Included in the LAEDC report are economic projections in view of lost jobs and income due to increased raids by ICE. If 15 percent of the LA fashion industry jobs are relocated, a total of 33,600 direct and indirect jobs would be lost in the city of LA and Los Angeles County. The area would also lose $3.5 million in sales tax revenues.
If 15 percent of direct jobs in all three industries are relocated, total jobs lost would be 74,200 and revenue loss to the County and Metro areas would be $8.7 million. LA would lose 38,400 jobs and $3.4 million in sales tax revenues. If 100 percent of direct jobs in all three industries are relocated, total jobs lost would be nearly 500,000 – with more than 255,000 in the city of Los Angeles – and $106 million in tax revenues.
I understand that they (ICE) have a responsibility to implement the laws of this nation,” President and CEO of Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce Gary L. Toebben told the Asian Journal. “That is why my first call today is for comprehensive immigration reform to the United States Congress. My second call is that I would suggest that the ICE use its limited resources to focus on those employers who are clearly taking advantage of undocumented employees by paying them lower wages and not providing employee benefits.”
Mr. Toebben had accompanied Mayor Villaraigosa when they met with Homeland Security Chief Michael Chertoff to complain about the stepped-up ICE raids on Los Angeles businesses suspected of employing undocumented workers. During that meeting, Chertoff had said, “There will be some unhappy consequences for the economy out of doing this.”
Alexandra Spunt, a Canadian, who works as a brand and marketing manager at American Apparels, Inc., said that they allowed their 4,000 Los Angeles workers to join the pro-immigration march slated later on Thursday.
“We have 7,000 employees around the world, and we are making products that people love,” she announced. “Last year, American Apparels earned $125 million in exports.” She said that her company would open factories in China and Mexico. “We are having a really positive [contributions] on the US economy, and we just want to continue to do what we are doing.”
“Immigrants are here to seek a better life for their families. But if the selective enforcement actions against these legitimate businesses continue, we could see these businesses leaving our city and our country’s shores,” Villaraigosa said.