News / USA

Debt Ceiling Crisis Worries Immigrants

Adam Phillips
— A government shutdown that dragged on for weeks, political bickering, and uncertainty over the nation's financial stability have alarmed many immigrants living in the United States. 

The government shutdown came as a shock to many clients at African Services Committee, a Harlem-based nonprofit organization that offers health services along with social and legal assistance to the African diaspora in New York.  Attorney Claire R. Thomas often represents African immigrants seeking asylum from political chaos in their home countries.

“The idea that there is this debt crisis, that everything could blow up is really unsettling, and really scary for them that the same thing that’s been happening in their country is going to happen here to this great power, the United States, and just shock that this could happen here as well,” said Thomas.

The toxic political atmosphere in Washington affected Thomas’ clients in other ways as well. The shutdown meant the cancellation or postponement of many asylum hearings, and some lawmakers continue to threaten to curtail many federal benefits for the poor. 

“Federal benefits right now… are being drastically cut.  So you have that whole uncertainty over ‘I don’t know when my check is going to come. ‘I don’t know how I am going to pay my rent. ‘I don’t know how I am going to survive,’” explained Thomas.

Finances are also a major issue for millions of immigrants who send money to families back in their home countries, according to Matiusko Florentino, whose storefront business specializes in international person-to-person money transfers.
Florentino says that if America were to default on its financial commitments, its economy would spiral downwards and the dollar would decline in value, which would hurt many immigrants' families back home.

“The result could be catastrophic. If the United States doesn’t do good, the rest of Latin America will not do good. People back in, especially the [Dominican Republic], where I’m from, depend on how good their relatives do in America and the strength of the dollar. People sustain their family from the money they bring back home. And if nothing happens, people don’t have nothing to eat.  I hope all the problems can get solved, so the economy can get back to the right path,” said Florentino.

Savneet Singh, an employee of GBI, an international precious metals firm based in New York, says uncertainty over the U.S. economy and global financial markets boosted interest in acquiring gold, especially among Indian- and Chinese-Americans.   

“In emerging markets where you’ve had everything from bombs dropped to governments collapsing to high inflation, the concept of owning something hard and real is ingrained into their culture.  So I can say, ‘Hey, I love Google stock or Microsoft stock or Exxon stock’ now.  But will I bet that it will still exist in 300 years? Maybe.  But will I bet that gold will still exist? I am pretty sure I can bet on that. So the idea is just to have something you know will keep its value and protect you in bouts of extreme inflation or bad governance,” explained Singh.

Singh also said Americans are increasing their gold purchases because gold is seen as a safe place to keep money in troubled times. 

While political bickering in Washington worries immigrants, economists say it also unnerves investors, companies and ordinary consumers who are less likely to spend or invest, which can further slow economic growth.

You May Like

At Khmer Rouge Court, Long-Awaited Verdict Approaches

First phase of trial, which is coming to an end, has focused on forced exodus of Phnom Penh in 1975 - and now many are hopeful justice will be served More

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities More

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

Downing of Malaysian airliner, allegations of cross-border shelling move information war in war-torn country to a new level More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
July 31, 2014 8:13 PM
The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.

AppleAndroid