A recent report commissioned by The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven challenges widespread assumptions about immigration in the Elm City.
At a Tuesday press conference on the report, president and CEO of The Community Foundation William Ginsberg said that the purpose of the report is to utilize hard data and surveys to help the general public, policy makers and local leaders understand the impact of immigration in the New Haven area. The report was written by DataHaven, a non-profit that compiles, shares and interprets public data in order to facilitate effective decision-making. The report assembles data from federal, state and local government agencies, as well as information generated locally through surveys conducted by DataHaven and The Community Foundation.
Ginsberg said that the report corrects two widespread misconceptions concerning immigration in New Haven. The first false impression is that substantial immigration is economically disadvantageous to the city as a whole. The report found that immigrants contribute millions of dollars in property taxes to municipal governments and are also more likely to own a small business than U.S.-born New Haveners. The second misconception, Ginsberg said, is that many immigrants are inexperienced workers at the bottom of the economic ladder. In reality, the report found that two-thirds of the immigrants in the community are categorized as high-skilled workers, defined as those who have gained advanced knowledge through higher education.
John Lugo, a community organizer with Unidad Latina en Accion, believes that New Haven is overall very welcoming to immigrants. However, he noted that this is the case only because the immigrant community in the city has fought to make it that way.
“We are lucky in that we have a very active, very vibrant community working to speak up on behalf of the underrepresented,” he said.
Ginsberg agreed with Lugo that New Haven is more accommodating to immigrants than most other cities, referencing the city’s initiative in 2007 to issue municipal identification cards to all its residents, including undocumented immigrants, despite disapproval from the Bush Administration.
However, Ginsberg stated that there are still major problems and misconceptions that need to be corrected, citing racial profiling in East Haven as a notable example. Hispanic business owners of East Haven filed a lawsuit against the East Haven Police Department in October 2010, claiming that the civil rights of Hispanic residents had been violated
Sandra Travino, executive director of Junta for Progressive Action, a non-profit dedicated to the empowerment of Latino and low-income communities, said she found the report to be a unique combination of historical context, data analysis and local perspectives.
“I think it will be an extremely important tool that we’ll be able to use to educate the community about the substantial benefits that come with immigration and to correct widespread misconceptions concerning immigrants,” she said.
Travino specifically mentioned a new statistic in the report that states that only 3.4 percent of Connecticut’s population consists of undocumented immigrants, which is far less than was previously assumed.
Ginsberg stated that the report’s release is part of a much broader initiative to improve civic, social and economic life in New Haven. Activists at The Community Foundation will continue to do immigration outreach and education, give grants to organizations that support immigration and hold leadership development programs for immigrants. The organization will also host a large community gathering in March to discuss new policies recently passed by the Obama Administration concerning the rights of undocumented immigrants in America.
The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven was officially established in 1928.