As nation debates immigration reform, local impact discussed

As President Barack Obama called for sweeping reforms to immigration policies in the United States that create a clear path to citizenship on Tuesday, one local economic expert said the region would see little change in the economic impact of such a change in the law.

"The Cincinnati region has less than five percent in foreign-born workers," said Michael Jones of the University of Cincinnati economic development department. "We probably won't see a strong effect either way."

Jones said in comparison, 100 of the largest metro areas have about 16 percent foreign born.

And whereas Jones sees little local economic impact in change in immigration laws Alfonso Cornejo, the Cincinnati USA Hispanic Chamber president, sees a need and an opportunity.

""We need to do a lot more to attract this hard working people, otherwise our region is going to fall way behind," Cornejo said. "Immigration brings, in a majority of the cases, wages up and not down. And in the few industries that they are going down, we're only talking about a tenth of a percent over ten years. So it's really nothing."

Regionally, Cornejo said without an increase Cincinnati will lose competitively to cities like Louisville, Indianapolis, and Columbus.

According to a report produced by LaVERDAD Marketing & Media for the Hispanic Chamber, Hispanic owned businesses increased at more than double the National Rate and receipts by Hispanic businesses increased by 55.5 percent from 2002 to 2007.

Sylvia Kruel Martinez has ran a convenient store in Price Hill that sells authentic Mexican items from clothing for food for years. She came to the U.S. in 1958 and was naturalized a year later.

"Well, I have always owned a business and I have always worked. I'm 74-years-old and I'm still working 18-20 hours a day," Martinez said.

Martinez said the economy has gotten pretty low in her neighborhood, driving away a lot of illegal immigrants who came to the area looking for jobs.

"A lot of them have been deported," Martinez said. "A lot of them just went back to their countries on their own."

As for Martinez, as a naturalized citizen she plans to continue to run her business in Price Hill as long as possible.

"My children are here, grandchildren and great grandchildren are here. I'm stuck in the store and I'm stuck with my family


The Associated Press contributed to this report

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