How New Americans are Shoring Up America’s Economy

Walk down Main Street in your community and it’s likely that you’ll pass by a lot of immigrant-owned businesses.

In the new report “Bringing Vitality to Main Street,” the Council of the Americas and the Fiscal Policy Institute find that between 2000 and 2013, immigrant-owned businesses were responsible for all the net growth in Main Street businesses — from restaurants to hairdressers to auto body shops — throughout the U.S. and in 31 of the largest 50 cities in the country.

Immigrants own 53 percent of America’s grocery stores, 45 percent of its nail salons and 38 percent of its restaurants. Overall, immigrants own 28 percent of the Main Street businesses in America, even though they only comprise 16 percent of country’s population.
The authors of the report included businesses owned by both documented and undocumented immigrants in the study, zeroing in on three areas where vibrant immigrant communities have revitalized neighborhoods and cities: Philadelphia, Nashville and the Twin Cities.
Jennifer Rodriguez, executive director of Philadelphia’s Mayor’s Office of Immigrant and Cultural Affairs, tells NBC News that the report, “really tells a story of how hard-working they are and how they are contributors to our city, how they helped bring back neighborhoods that have been in decline.”
In addition to contributing to business growth, immigrants seem to be shoring up the housing market as well. Gillian B. White writes for National Journal that while millennials have so far proven to be less likely than previous generations to purchase real estate, buying a house is still a key goal for many immigrants. In fact, according to the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies, immigrants are responsible for 27.5 percent of the growth in homeownership over the past 20 years. Unlike their millennial counterparts from non-immigrant families, the children of immigrants account for the largest increase in the growth of households headed by people under age 30.
As Rodriguez says, “I often say that what is good for immigrants is good for everyone.”
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Meet the ‘Entreprenurses’ Behind a Clothing Line That Benefits Low-Income Families

Two nurses working in a neonatal intensive care unit have dubbed themselves “entreprenurses.”
To help the babies and their families at the Broward Health Medical Unit in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Amanda Dubin and Kelly Meyer started a baby clothing company that helps needy families. Luc&Lou donates a onesie to a needy family for each one they sell and also supports nonprofits that benefit low-income families with newborns.
The design feature the tiny footprints of a 29-week-old infant that Dubin and Meyer cared for in the NICU. On one of the onesies, the footprints form the yellow rays of a sun and on another, a purple butterfly. “We were giving back to these little babies, and we wanted to really do it on a larger scale,” Meyer tells the Sun Sentinel.
Dubin says that they were inspired by the fighting spirit of the preemies they care for. “If they can do what they do, we can do anything.”
Now, Luc&Lou onesies go home with every “welcome to the world” package the Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition of Broward County gives to low-income mothers of newborns. Sales from Luc&Lou products also benefit Fort Lauderdale’s Jack & Jill Children’s Center.
Meyer and Dubin have sold about 400 onesies so far and aim to expand. “We will always be nurses,” Dubin says. “That’s who we are. But we want to go bigger so we can help more people.”
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How to Bridge the Digital Divide

While many claim that devices are causing people to interact less, here’s a great example of technology bringing people together.
Once a week, 16-year-old Mikinly Sullivan travels to the Frasier Meadows retirement home in Boulder, Colo., to visit her friend, 89-year-old Kevin Bunnell. The two were connected through Cyber Seniors, a program that pairs high school volunteers with elderly individuals that need help navigating new-fangled technology.
The program wants to ensure that seniors are learning to use computers — not just letting the young people figure things out for them — so as a rule, the elder person’s fingers must be on the keyboard the whole time, while the teenager coaches them through maneuvers.
Bunnell is a poet, and Sullivan has been helping him organize the many poems he’s written over his lifetime. “I love listening to the stories from when he was young,” Sullivan says to PBS News Hour. In exchange, Bunnell wrote a poem in honor of the Cyber Seniors program.
Another senior benefitting from the program is Bruce Mackenzie. “I’m taking a class at the university called Hip-Hop 101,” he says, “And I didn’t know how to listen to the rap songs that are on hip-hop. And Ryan [a teen participant] showed me how to go to YouTube, which I never knew anything about. So I go to YouTube now and I can listen to all these rap songs for my class.”
While the program’s ultimate mission is to help seniors get online, Jack Williamson, who runs Cyber Seniors, says that it “helps build relationships between young people and seniors, which is rare in this culture today.”
As one student volunteer tells PBS News Hour, “I’m learning a lot from them and they’re learning from me. I have actually found through this that I think I like older people more than I like younger people.”
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For New Americans Struggling with Paperwork, These College Students Are Helping Tackle It

Melanie Domenech Rodríguez, a multi-cultural psychology teacher at Utah State University in Logan, Utah, came up with an innovative way for her students to gain some hands-on experience with the topics they discussed in class: Every Tuesday night, students volunteer to help local refugees and immigrants at an employment and citizenship clinic they created.
Rodríguez and others initially trained the students, but now they run the clinic themselves.
Antonia Keller, a student coordinator, tells Lis Stewart of HJNews, “It’s been really exciting for me and really rewarding to meet all the people that move to Cache Valley. I think it really enriches the valley and makes it a better place to have people from all different backgrounds and experiences here.”
Keller and the other students help immigrants craft resumes, fill out job applications and complete the paperwork required for the naturalization test. While there are other organizations in the community that help immigrants study for the test, no one else was helping them handle the paperwork. “It’s really intensive,” Keller says, “and really a kind of big bureaucratic thing to tackle on your own.”
The clinic has been successful enough that Utah State students will continue to run it in the spring, surely resulting in more insights like the one college student Alecc Quezada had about how privileged he is to have grown up in the United States. “I knew that to become a citizen you had to take a test, and I knew what resumes and what jobs required, but it’s so much easier knowing the language especially and having that cultural background,” he says.
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Watch: How Rock the Vote Is Reaching Millennials

Heather Smith, Rock the Vote board chairwoman, was doing what she does best at South By Southwest in Austin, Texas, this week: Donning a #TrendUrVoice T shirt, she stood in the rain on Thursday registering voters alongside both the  famous (actress Rosario Dawson, chair of Voto Latino) and the newly converted (student volunteers). “Our strategy is just to go where the young people are,” she says of the Rock the Vote presence at the music and media conference.
That strategy has worked for the nonprofit since its inception. When Rock the Vote was founded in 1990, MTV was one of the surest ways to reach young people. In the last 23 years, however, dozens of new media outlets have hit the scene, while political campaigns drew major stars to political fundraisers and celebs started to take on their own causes.
Rock the Vote had to motivate and mobilize millennials, making them feel that voting, like music, is something that is a part of their identity. “We moved from LA to Washington, DC so we could be in the middle of all this and say, ‘Hey, pay attention to us. Start talking about these issues,’” she says. Rock the Vote has also branched out to launch new programs like Spin the Vote for electronic dance music fans. “The strength of our democracy really does depend on the participation of its citizens,” Smith said, emphasizing the importance of redefining citizenship in our country before heading back in the rain. “It’s showing up on election day and everyday in between.”
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