Spokane Business Owners Look to Congress to Pass Immigration Reform

By Steve Jackson

Some local Spokane small business owners say it’s time to pass immigration reform, which they say will boost the state’s economy. 

Chris Nerison is the operator of CK Candles, a local business that sells candles for memorials. He says a new study by the group Main Street Alliance indicates the state could gain 833 jobs per month if  a comprehensive immigration reform bill were to be passed by Congress.

Nerison: “It would raise employment, and as a small business owner were pretty dependant on the rise and fall of the economy, because of the demand, and I think it would help my business that way.”
 
The study found that In Washington, Asian and Latino residents represent growing purchasing power in the state. The 2012 purchasing power of Asians in Washington totaled $24.7 billion, an increase of  more than 700 percent since 1990.

Viktor Azar, himself an immigrant, is the owner of Café Mac in the Spokane Museum of Arts and Culture. He believes immigration reform would boost tax revenues in Washington.
 
Azar: “Just like taking the marijuana issue, it’s the same thing, we would be taking some thing form the underground, basically under the economy, back into the economy, and all of these underground workers would be in the economy , and their work would be taxed.”

Martine Meraz Garcia is an assistant professor in Chicano studies at Eastern Washington University. He says the school did a survey of Hispanic business owners in Eastern Washington. He says some of the anecdotal information they found showed how legalizing the status of illegal aliens could boost the state economy. One was a discussion with a Wenatchee attorney about a client who is an illegal immigrant.

Meraz Garcia: “He said to me, you know this guy has $100,000-$200,000 dollars buried in his backyard, he’s ready to invest in business, but he feels he can’t because at any minute he could be deported.”

The other was a conversation he had with a realtor in Quincy:
 
Meraz Garcia: “His response, we asked him about immigration he said, if a passage of immigration reform took place today, I have 15 people I could sell homes to right now.”

The Main Street report echoes finding from a report that came out in August, prepared by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, that said the Immigration reform bill passed by the Senate last summer would spur $21.3 billion in increased economic output in the state over the next 10 years and create 3,083 new jobs annually in the state.
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