Los Angeles must double down on immigrant inclusion – Daily News

Even as President Trump continues to ratchet up anti-immigrant rhetoric and policy, California is leading the way on sensible policies to promote immigrant integration. Los Angeles has a special role in this effort for reasons both historical and current.

After all, during the 1970s and 1980s, fully 23 percent of all immigrants arriving in the U.S. settled in Los Angeles County. The rapid shift in our demographics raised challenges, particularly as more established Angelenos grew to know their new neighbors and often triggered the sort of convulsions we are seeing in much of the country now.

While immigrants continue to move to our region, the share of L.A. County residents who are foreign-born has been on the decline for over a decade; however, the legacy of change remains: one third of our residents are immigrants, almost half of our workforce is foreign-born and nearly 60% of our children have at least one immigrant parent. How those parents and their families do will determine the future of our region’s families, workplaces, and communities — and so immigrant integration is everyone’s business.

Recognizing that, we recently convened nearly 400 individuals from different sectors in Los Angeles for a summit on “The Future of Immigrants in Los Angeles County,” one highlight of which was the release of a report on the State of Immigrants in Los Angeles County. This report unveils key findings with regard to how L.A.’s immigrant communities are faring across three key arenas: economic mobility, civic engagement and warmth of welcome.

In the economic mobility arena, we find evidence of immigrant economic progress over time — the longer people are here, the higher their incomes. The challenge is that disparities remain, even controlling for differing education levels. The share of Angelenos who have full-time jobs but still experience economic insecurity is three times higher for immigrants than for the native-born.

On the civic engagement side, we also see both positives and negatives. Adult enrollment in English as a Second Language (ESL) courses has generally been trending up — although there has been some slippage and there is still significant unmet demand. And nearly 70% of all immigrants who are eligible to naturalize — that is, who are lawful permanent residents (LPRs) and have lived in the country for at least five years — have made the decision to become citizens.

On the warmth of welcome, there are also positives and negatives. County-level policy makers have generally recognized the need to protect all immigrants regardless of status. After all, nearly 70% of undocumented Angelenos have been in the U.S. for at least a decade, meaning that they are well-enmeshed in our communities. Because of this they have formed families — and now roughly a fifth of the residents of L.A. County are either undocumented or are U.S. citizens or LPRs who live with an undocumented family member.

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