News

    US Economic Slowdown Hurts Small Immigrant Businesses

    The slowing U.S. economy and rising unemployment are affecting a wide range of businesses across the country, including those owned by immigrants. Small immigrant businesses in Prince William County, Virginia, outside Washington, are among those hard-hit -- not just by the economic slowdown but by county ordinances targeting illegal immigrants or undocumented workers. VOA's Bill Rodgers visited the county and has this report.

    On the Route 1 corridor, Club Video Mexico has been in business for 19 years, but co-owner Pablo Vargas has never seen business so bad.

    "Nobody wants to buy anything. They'd rather save money than spend it!" Vargas said.

    Even larger immigrant businesses are affected. Carlos Castro owns three supermarkets, catering mainly to Latinos. He explains, "When it comes to food, even though it's said we have to eat every day, it has dropped considerably. In this store, we are down about 15 percent from the previous year, and in Alexandria it is about 22 or 25 percent."

    Asian-owned businesses are affected, too. Yong-jae Park is the manager of the Korean-American Hanmi Bank office in northern Virginia. He says he is making fewer loans to his Asian clients. "The number of inquiries has substantially declined in the last couple of months and then the number of loans I am processing, I see there is some slowdown," he says.

    Prince William County, near Washington, DC, has grown substantially in recent years, and now has a large immigrant population.

    But it, too, has been affected by the nationwide housing downturn, the credit crunch and financial uncertainty.

    At the county's Chamber of Commerce, Chairwoman Joanne Bell and President Laurie Wieder have noticed the change.

    "A large portion of the members who do not renew their membership are businesses that are going out of business," Wieder said. "That happens every year. But this year, certainly, there were more of those who closed the doors of their businesses."

    The renewal rate was down between two and three percent, though more new members joined the chamber in 2007.

    Chamber member Julie Do is worried. She is a Vietnamese immigrant who owns a nail and tanning salon. She says, "People have not come in as regularly as they used to. Instead of every two to three weeks, they prolong to a month and some people decide not to get [their nails] done because they don't have the money to spend, so they cut back."

    The slowdown in construction and home sales in the county is only partly to blame for the business falloff. A county ordinance targeting illegal immigrants also has hurt business. Among other things, it will allow police to check the immigration status of anyone who breaks the law.

    This has scared undocumented workers, who are finding less work anyway because of the slow economy.

    Many are thinking of leaving the area, says one man who did not give his name.  "We'll keep struggling as much as we can," he said in Spanish, "and if we can't go on then it's better to go back to our countries to see if we can make a living there."

    And many have moved on, hurting the businesses that rely on their spending.

    At the El Portal restaurant, owner Manuel Arbaiza is in danger of losing his $400,000 investment. He says he saw an immediate change after the county passed its anti-illegal immigrant measures. "Before July, a good day for us was anywhere from $2,000 to $3,000, on weekends," Arbaiza said. "And now we have days of $80. I mean, it costs us more money to open up the restaurant than if we were to close it."

    Closing would mean letting go more workers, further worsening the already deteriorating economy. For businesses, including those owned by immigrants, tough times seem to lie ahead.

     

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Busi
    X
    July 28, 2016 4:16 AM
    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Philadelphia Uses DNC Spotlight to Profile Historic Role in Founding of United States

    The slogan of the Democratic National Convention now underway in Philadelphia is “Let’s Make History Again” which recognizes the role the city played in the foundation of the United States in the 18th century. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, local institutions are opening their doors in an effort to capitalize on the convention spotlight to draw visitors, and to offer more than just a history lesson.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora