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Giovanni Palavicini: Immigration Reform and Its Effect on Retail

The Hispanic community—which has an annual spending power of $176 billion in Texas—is at the center of current discussions on immigration reform. This debate has Hispanic retailers in limbo, as they try to decide how much and how quickly they want to expand here.
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Giovanni Palavicini

The controversial topic of immigration has been discussed for several centuries, and there has always been and will always be two sides to the issue. The fact of the matter is, this country was built on immigration—legal and illegal—but at any given time, there has always been a targeted ethnic group relating to immigration reform.

The Naturalization Act of 1790 Act limited granted citizenship to “free white persons” of “good moral character.” It was expanded in 1870 to include people of African descent who were born in the United States and, in 1898, to Asians. With the Emergency Immigration Act of 1921, Congress limited immigration from Europe and established a quota system for setting those limits. This was followed by the Immigration Act of 1924, which tightened restrictions and, according to reports, “was aimed at restricting the Southern and Eastern Europeans, especially Jews, Italians, and Slavs, who had begun to enter the country in large numbers beginning in the 1890s.”

Today the targeted ethnic group is clearly the Hispanic community, which is at the forefront of the debate. This debate has Hispanic retailers in limbo, as they try to decide how much and how quickly they want to expand in Texas. Hispanic consumers have an annual spending power in Texas of $176 billion—second only to California. (This spending power is representative of legal, as well as illegal Hispanic immigrants.)

I agree that there has to be some kind of reform that allows for law-abiding immigrants to be placed on the path to legal residence or citizenship, but deportation and separation of families is not the answer. Wanting make a better life for oneself and ones family does not make you a criminal. Once again, this great country of ours was built on opportunity and those who are willing to work hard to reap the rewards of that opportunity.

I believe that President Obama said it best in his speech in El Paso last month: “Reform the immigration system so that there is no longer a massive underground economy that exploits a cheap source of labor, while depressing wages of everyone else.”

Giovanni Palavicini, a native of Mexico City, is founder of Fronteras, a Dallas real estate firm that specializes in the Latino market. Contact him at [email protected].

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