You know all those stacks you drop on yardwork, Pico Union ethnic food and the live-in nanny?
Bet you were feeling pretty good about doing your part to stimulate the local economy, or whatever. But there's a good chance your fat Los Angeles dime is instead going straight to the local Western Union -- and onto the streets of El Salvador.
L.A. has the largest Salvadoran population in the U.S. -- over 270,000. They're our second largest group of Latinos, behind Mexicans. Superstar UCLA professor Raul Hinojosa-Ojeda gave us a ring from the newly democratic Latin American country yesterday, where he was chillin' with President Obama and touring the Salvadoran countryside in the name of economic reform. (Yeah, that's right. What did you do yesterday, punk?)
Here's what he told us:
Speaking over cranky reception in a municipality of about 70,000 called Jiquilisco, Hinojosa-Ojeda described "literally a mob scene" crowding around the Western Union window.
He said that of about 10,000 Angelenos who've immigrated from Jiquilisco to find work (mostly living in the Pico Union area, mostly without papers), each sends about $2,000 home per year -- forming an entire half of the region's economy. The rest is generated by fishermen and farmers, whose trades are becoming more and more obsolete in the age of globalization.
"The future economic stability of this country depends a lot on what happens on the streets of L.A.," Hinojosa-Ojeda said.
The biggest problem with such massive outsourcing is that -- as Jiquilisco's residents don't have access to a banking system or safe way to save the L.A. money -- most of them will waste it on instant buys, instead of investing it in a local business scene of their own.
Which is, in large part, why Obama was in town, commending a new left-wing democratic government and working with top officials to improve El Salvador's economy from the inside out.
But so far, it's all talk. Hinojosa-Ojeda said that although the president's heart is in the right place, the Republican block in Washington is pressuring him into a rigid, old-fashioned immigration policy that only injures both our economy and Latin America's. In fact, the sole profiteers off the U.S. Latino lockout are human and drug traffickers.
"The problem [Obama] has is that he can't do anything himself," said the professor. "What he was forced to do here [in Latin America] is bacially reiterate that he will make this a major issue, which plays well to the Latino voters who are watching with particular interest in the United States."
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He explained that Obama is "buying into that mentality... so he can then have credibility [to make reforms] -- but the more he goes to the right, the Republicans move even further to the right."
Hinojosa-Ojeda's study on what would happen if Arizona got its way, just released today at an East Coast press conference, finds that the state/nation would have a $100 billion collapse in the absence of undocumented workers. Read the full report here.
"Frankly, this was a learning experience for [Obama]," said the professor. "It forced the U.S. government to try and take this seriously. ... But he's got to deliver on a lot more promises here."