Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe

Testimony :: Hon. Hilda L. Solis
Commissioner - Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe


Good morning and welcome to today’s field hearing titled “Los Angeles: The Regional Impacts and Opportunities Migration.” As the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly Special Representative on Migration, I am very pleased to have this opportunity to bring the important work of the Commission to my district in Los Angeles.

I want to thank Chairman Hastings and our witnesses for joining us here today to provide the Commission with their insight on migration in Los Angeles. Today, we will examine the regional impacts and opportunities of migration in Los Angeles within a global context.

In the United States, our political climate has made immigration a wedge issue that does not reflect the realities of the American migration experience. This hearing is absolutely vital in humanizing the migration experience and generating a productive dialogue.

Part of my mandate as OSCE Parliamentary Assembly Special Representative on Migration is to provide the OSCE and Member Delegations to the OSCE PA with policy recommendations to address migration issues.I have seen no other city in my experience that is more fitting to start that dialogue than Los Angeles. Los Angeles is a gateway for millions of new immigrants to the U.S. It is a multicultural city that is recognized for its accomplishments and initiatives to support migrant communities.

The migrant communities in Los Angeles are very diverse. For example, in 2006, migrants from Mexico accounted for nearly 43% of the foreign born in Los Angeles. This is followed by migrants from El Salvador (8%), China (6.3%), the Philippines (6.1%), Guatemala (4.6%) and Korea (4.4%). It is also home to large Armenian and Iranian communities as well. In Los Angeles, approximately 46% of the workforce is foreign born. This is 3 times higher than the U.S. as a whole. In Los Angeles, immigrant workers are largely represented in occupations such as construction trades (63%), health care support (48%), and farming, fishing and forestry (70%). These job sectors are crucial to the state of California and Los Angeles.

Migrants also contribute significantly to the economy through purchasing power and business development. In 2004, the Asian-American and Latino consumer markets accounted for $1.05 trillion dollars in purchasing power. In 2005, companies founded by first-generation immigrants employed 450,000 workers and generated $52 billion in sales. 80% of these companies provide jobs in software and innovation/manufacturing-related services.

In addition, migrants provide revenues to their home countries in the form of remittances, providing over $232 billion per year to developing countries, an amount far greater than official development assistance. Many of the OSCE participating States rely on remittances for a significant portion of their GDP. For example, remittances make up 31% of Moldova’s GDP. These remittances can play a key role in supplementing incomes of migrants’ families, offering means to pay for education, and afford better health care.

Los Angeles is viewed by many as the leading edge in providing services and infrastructure to optimize the potential of its’ migrant communities. The various advocacy and service organizations in Los Angeles seek to address the needs of the diverse migrant communities. These groups are responsible for providing critical outreach and services to migrant communities. They also seek to educate migrant communities about the importance of civic participation and increase economic development. For example, the Multi-Ethnic Immigrant Workers Organizing Network (MIWON), a network of worker centers in Los Angeles, organized a march on Thursday, May 1st to the attention the issue of workers rights and justice in immigrant communities.

Between 1990 and 2006, the proportion of foreign born immigrants who became naturalized citizens nearly doubled from 9% to 16%. The rise in the naturalized population and the growth of the second generation population in Los Angeles all point to new opportunities to engage in increased civic participation.

The work these organizations and coalitions perform on the local, state, and national level has been critical to increasing civic participation and economic growth and should serve as a model for the OSCE and Partner States throughout the world.

The discussions in Congress about immigration reform have mobilized migrant communities and just as nations around the globe are working to successfully integrate immigrants, I am hopeful that today’s testimony will contribute to a better understanding of the benefits of migration and pitfalls of enforcement only policies.

I look forward to hearing their thoughts and insight on best practices for social, civic, and economic integration of migrant communities.