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Inequalities and Newcomers: Barriers to Immigrant Incorporation:

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Over the past 40 years there has been strong evidence that America has
become more "open" and "fair," affording opportunities to broader segments
of the society and establishing legal rights and policies that are aimed at
promoting a more meritocratic system.

Yet, as we witnessed this past week with the passage SB1070 in Arizona,
which in essence requires law enforcement to specifically targeting
individuals because of their ethnic differences, in other words “looking
Mexican,” we may recognize that “open” and “fair” are not uniformly applied
to all.

Documented and undocumented immigrant groups today face structural and

social impediments that have limited their acceptance in the social, political
and legal realms. Universal rights that have been the foundation of western
democracies are denied to immigrants seeking work, education, healthcare,
and housing in the United States.

Thus, integration of many migrant groups may be restricted by the social

and political context of reception in the US. Though here as refugees, asylum
seekers, visiting students, or guest workers, we find that many immigrants
are denied their legal rights, relegating them to the status of “second class”
simply for having been born in another country.

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Fareed Zakaria wrote in his book “The post-American World” that The
potential for a new burst of American productivity depends not on our
education system or R&D spending, but on our immigration policies. If these
people are allowed and encouraged to stay, then innovation will happen
here. If they leave, they'll take it with them.

While we recognize the innovation and diversity that comes with liberal
immigration policies, our local climate has not been inviting and encouraging
migrants to live among us...

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This presentation will discuss just one of the barriers that immigrants
experience in trying to become incorporated into the local community. In
particular, this talk will present recent, local research on inequitable access
to safe, affordable, and fair housing for immigrants and other minorities.
Housing discrimination in the form of a lack of access to credit, steering,
denial of access to properties, and lack of adequate transportation choices
are structural impediment that lead to fewer educational opportunities for
immigrant children, greater exposure to damaging environmental conditions
resulting in chronic health problems, the formation of isolated ethnic
enclaves, and has limited opportunities for cultural diversity in many
neighborhoods throughout Greensboro.

I will focus primarily on issues with rental housing for immigrants and
minorities but I will touch on other housing related issues.

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I will frame the talk as a universal human rights issue... anchoring it in

Articles 13, 14, and 25 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

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According to Article 13.

(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence
within the borders of each state.
(2) Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and
to return to his country.

In essence this article declares that Freedom of movement is a basic human

right. It is grounded in the historical evidence that for many millennia before
the rise of cities, provinces, countries, and the nation-state people moved
seeking better conditions of life.

It does not say that this should be an unregulated right in the modern
political era, but that individuals should be treated equally and fairly when
exercising their choice to move either within their own country or across
national political boundaries.

The human right to movement should not be determined by race/ethnicity,

religious doctrine, family status, political ideology, sex, gender, sexuality, or
economic status. Yet, we restrict immigration to the United States on the
basis of all of these characteristics with a system that offers preference to
those with large sums of capital and higher education while limiting or even
denying people with lower socio-economic statuses and those who are least
like us in ethnicity, religion, or ideology.

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In reality, less that 3% of the world’s population, or about 300 million people,
have exercised this right to movement as permanent migrants outside of
their countries of origin. Of this flow, about 1.1 million legal permanent
migrants make their way to the United States.

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Article 14.
(1) Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries
asylum from persecution.
(2) This right may not be invoked in the case of prosecutions genuinely
arising from non-political crimes or from acts contrary to the purposes
and principles of the United Nations.

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okay... So you can’t run off if you rob a bank or something and declare it
is your right to escape to another country, but it is your right to seek
refuge when “owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted on
account of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social
group, or political opinion, is outside the country of their nationality, and
is unable to or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail him/herself of the
protection of that country”

In simpler terms, if you are afraid of harm because of who you are as a
member of a class of people, and you can get out of your own country
then you have a right to protection outside your homeland.

We have seen a decline in recent years of the number of refugees and

asylees being allowed to seek protection from persecution in the US.

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Of the global pool of 300 million migrants, 50 million of these people are
classified as “forced migrants” or refugees who were not exercising a
right, but fleeing war, natural disasters, and political turmoil. The USA
receives only about 60 thousand of them per year now, granting Legal
Permanent Residence to only about 160,000 annually.

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Now… as for that great ‘grey’ area of undocumented migration, we have

seen the recent numbers decline, and in some areas a reverse flow of
migrants returning home. The Pew Hispanic Center notes, that “From 2000
to early 2005, the unauthorized immigrant population grew by an annual net
average of about 525,000. The growth pattern started changing substantially
in 2005. From 2005 to 2008, annual growth has averaged 275,000
undocumented immigrants.”

So in sum, we are talking about an annual inflow counting refugees, asylees,

and all other documented and undocumented migrants of about 1.5 to 2
million into a population of 310 million in the United States. The best
estimates place the total accumulated foreign born population at just under
40 million or about 13% of the population.

The official estimates from the Census Bureau of the foreign born in
Greensboro-High Point Metropolitan Statistical Area are at 5.7% of the total
population. The most liberal estimates from the anti-immigration group
‘FAIR’ places the tally at 7.6%. This amounts to roughly 50,000 individuals
born outside of the US, living in the Greensboro area. So we are talking about
a small, but significant and highly visible portion of the population.

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Article 25. Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the
health and well-being of himself and of his family

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Let’s look more closely

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(1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the
health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food,
clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and
the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability,
widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond
his control.

Wow! This is a very broad and encompassing right. Citizens of the US have
never fully experienced this right… we have had issues with 12%
unemployment, food insecurity, lack of medical care, great holes in social
service provision, homelessness and substandard housing.

This Right will be instrumental in informing the rest of this talk.

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Yes, I know I am supposed to be talking about discrimination in rental

housing in Greensboro, but
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Let's talk about just a few of the mechanism driving migration from Latin
America for a few moments before returning to the issues of housing and
human rights...

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There are a number of factors “pushing” migrants out of Mexico: lack of

work, few educational opportunities, crime, poor life chances and a lack of
social support from the government.

In other words, these circumstances, beyond the control of any everyday

individual, have lead to an inadequate standard of living for the health and
well-being of families.

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Moreover, it was the US that contributed greatly to these conditions…

Lets take for example one agricultural commodity – corn.

In 1990, about 1/4 of Mexico's residents depended on corn farming. There

were between three and four million corn farmers trying to support families
that include four or five children on milpas, or small corn farms.

As a result of NAFTA and the US flooding the Mexican corn market, prices
have fallen sharply: from an average of $5 a bushel in 1995 to $1.80 in 2000.
Small family farms in Mexico were unable to compete with the US subsidized,
combine farms and genetically modified super corn which produced mass
surpluses that were shipped to Latin America, Eastern Europe, Africa and
other developing areas.

Displaced farmers and their families were forced from their lands to work
first in Mexico City or move north and look for work across the border. This
did not only affect the farmer, but subsequent generations who have lost
family lands and livelihood. And this is but a single commodity…

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One interviewee that I had said it succinctly, “I come from Mexico. Right? I
had to leave my homeland, my city, and my parents. Right? I had to leave
them, because my economic situation there in Mexico was a little difficult
and I had to leave that place so that I could come here...Right. To leave all
these things, in my case to better my living condition and to be here with my
wife and children.”
In the terms of human rights he exercised Articles 13, 14, and 25 or his right
of mobility to seek protection from harm across the border in order to secure
an adequate standard of living for his wife and children… something most of
you would do in a similar situation.

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It is not just people being forced out of their lands and pushed out of a
country with a dysfunctional political or social support system, but from the
late 1980s to mid 2000s a demand in this country for cheap labor. This
demand encouraged a constant flow of as many able-bodied migrants as
possible from Mexico and further South, while simultaneously legalizing the
importation high-tech and medical workers from Asia.

The country gained from these low cost workers – cheaper consumer goods,
cheaper housing, cheaper and more abundant produce, cheaper nurses, and
even discounts on the price of engineers and scientists… Our abundance
created a labor vacuum that sucked in workers at all socio-economic levels…

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The country rapidly became more diverse. North Carolina experienced a

boom in its Hispanic population drawn initially for farming but later for
housing construction and small factories.

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Like much of the South, the Greensboro-High-Point, NC, Metropolitan
Statistical Area (MSA) has undergone rapid diversification as a result of

According to the Greensboro City Planning Department (1993, 2003), the

proportion of the population that is African American increased about 50
percent in the last 40 years. By comparison, the Latino population has
increased 800 percent in the last fifteen years to about 7.2 percent of the
population (US Census Bureau ACS 2006).

The overall picture is one of a city that once experienced racial binary, a
white-majority-African American-minority framework, to one that has
become less white and less binary, such that Asians, Latinos, biracial and
multiracial adults, and others in addition to African Americans and whites,
have become a visible part of the everyday social landscape.
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Let’s recall that everyone in this multiethnic, multicultural landscape should

be afforded the opportunities to an adequate standard of living, regardless of
where they are from or how they got here…

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Let’s move now to a discussion of fair housing and ways in which we have
been testing the adherence to federal laws that protect rights to housing

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Forty years ago, the Fair Housing Act of 1968 became law, but despite some
improvements, testing has revealed continuing patterns of housing
discrimination against minorities.

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Following are the findings from four recent studies of housing segregation
and discrimination in Greensboro. These studies examine discrimination as
just one of the causes of the segregation of immigrants. The first study looks
at community perceptions of housing discrimination. The subsequent finds
evidence of structural barriers to mortgage loans. The third presents
evidence from a 2008 audit of rental properties. Finally, a recently
completed study using surveys, focus groups and paired testing was
conducted by FaithAction staffers. Collectively these findings illustrate the
complexity of race and immigrant status, discrimination, and their
relationship to housing segregation in the South.

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UNCG’s Social Research Group together with colleagues at A&T conducted a

study of the state of human relations in Greensboro between January and
June of 2008. The purpose of the study was to provide data and
recommendations to the Human Relations Department of the City of
Greensboro for their Five Year Strategic Plan. The study examined
discrimination, access to opportunities, and inter-group relations in the areas
of employment/economics, housing, education, and law enforcement. The
project used a mixed-method research design for data collection and
included a review of previous research; focus groups throughout the city; in-
depth interviews; as well as 1168 written, face-to-face, and web-based
A recurrent theme that emerged from interviews with key informants on the
issue of housing was the perception that immigrants and African Americans
were “closed out” of housing opportunities

In this table we see that 16% of African American and 28% of Latino
surveyed reported that they had been prevented from buying or renting a
property because of their ethnicity. Moreover 41% of Latinos felt that they
had difficulty with neighbors because of their ethnicity and 34% had moved
because of these difficulties.

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The Human Relations study provided good evidence from interviewees about
the perception of unfair treatment among minorities and provides some
quantifiable evidence of the incidence of perceived discrimination.

Other studies have corroborated these findings. Discrimination may occur at

different stages in the process of buying a home. Yet, the final measure
would be whether or not a house is sold or a mortgage loan is approved. It
would be very difficult, not to mention costly, to conduct testing with the
actual origination of a loan and purchase of a home as the final outcome.
Thus, data from actual loans must be analyzed for patterns of
disproportionality in approvals or denials on the basis of racial or ethnic
characteristics of the borrower. This is possible as the Loan Application
Register (LAR), a standard reporting form submitted by lending institutions to
the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (FFIEC), is readily
available and reported in a public use dataset as per the Home Mortgage
Disclosure Act (HMDA) of 1975.

The LAR captures information regarding the type of loan, the type of
property, the purpose of the loan, whether the property will be owner
occupied, the loan amount, if pre-approval was requested, and the action
taken on the loan application. A common methodology for analysis of this
data is logistic regression which looks at the proportional odds of approval
controlling for various characteristics of the loan seeker;

Looking at 2006 data, there were 65,970 loan applications in the Greensboro
- High Point MSA. Probabilities of loan acceptance were plotted and logistic
regression was used to predict the odds that a loan application would be
approved when holding constant the loan characteristics, property
characteristics, applicant characteristics, and community factors. Minorities
were found to be less likely to receive loan approval than white applicants.
More than two-thirds (70.3 percent) of applications made by white primary
applicants were approved. In comparison, only 54.9 percent of applications
from non-white primary applicants were approved. This 15.4 percentage
point difference was found to be statistically significant. Thus we can say
that when all other factors were equal non-whites were less likely to receive
loans for housing purchases…

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A systematic audit study was conducted pairing trained Latino, white, and
African American testers and sending them into rental units to gauge
disparate outcomes.

Early housing discrimination studies have revealed that housing agents use
steering, discouragement, evasion, misrepresentation, withholding
information, delay, and differential screening and pricing, or downright
refusal to do business with nonwhites.

After the passage of the Fair Housing Act in 1968, local fair housing
advocacy organizations began developing what is now the methodological
centerpiece of housing discrimination investigation: the fair housing audit.

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The testing procedure is designed to measure differences in access to the
property, quoted costs on rent and deposit, differences in information, and
encouragement to rent.

The properties in this study were randomly selected from local

advertisements. The sampling frame was limited to “affordable” properties
at or below the 2007 Fair Market Rent for a two-bedroom unit at that time
$705. Weekly we tested 2 to 3 percent of available two-bedroom rental units
meeting this description. A total of 46 pairs of tests were conducted.

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We found that whites were disproportionately favored over African

Americans in access to the properties such as found in this property. In this
test we clearly see how a landlord limits access by imposing impossible
restrictions on the potential African American tester, but not the white tester.

Measures of disparity in access to the property for the bilingual,

professional Latinos showed little to no difference with whites. However
rental agents asked them about family size in a more than a third of the
tests (compared with 13.6 percent of whites, and 9.1 percent of African
Americans), and several Latino testers noted questions about their legal

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White testers making inquiries of properties in historically African American
communities were sometimes steered away from these neighborhoods such
as we see reflected here.

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In the survey conducted by FaithAction we found that immigrants felt they

were treated differently than others on a daily basis. About 47% felt they
were treated with less courtesy while going about their daily lives.

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40% felt that they were treated as if they were not as smart as others
because of their accent or other markers of nationality

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In the focus groups we found that safe and affordable housing along public
transit routes was severely limited. This is significant since many immigrant
households are dependent on busses to move about the city.
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Lack of a credit history was problematic for even those with high socio-
economic status as many landlords charge higher rents or deposits for those
with no credit score.

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But the most egregious problem was outright denial of housing on the basis
of ethnicity or national origin. Nearly a third of focus group participants had
unfairly been prevented from moving into an apartment.

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Audit test were less revealing this time. In 7 of 18 tests (39% of tests) there
was some kind of discrepancy noted in the pre-visit telephone call.
The property audits also produced a high number of discrepancies. For
example, in 6 of 18 visits (33%), the rental price was not in agreement. Yet,
no one audit case provided conclusive evidence of violations of Fair Housing
laws, there were instances of unequal rental or deposit costs, dissimilar
information, and differing kinds of encouragement found yet nothing as
blatant as in our earlier study.

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To sum it all up….

Our study of the perception of discrimination has shown that Latinos
perceive a greater degree of housing-related discrimination than whites and
African Americans.

In our analysis of mortgage data we found immigrant and minority home

buyers were less likely to be approved for home loans than white applicants
when all other factors were held constant.

In our tests of rental housing, we found educated, bilingual Latino

apartments seekers faired better than equally matched African American
renters. Yet, they were also asked more often about family size and legal
status than their audit pairs.

Focus groups with West African and Latino tenants indicated that they have
limited housing choices, experience cultural insensitivity by management
and staff, have problems with maintenance and substandard housing, and
are charged excessive fees.

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These conditions do not prove to be open and inviting to immigrants coming

to the area. Whether arriving as economically displaced workers or refugees
fleeing a war, immigrants in the US have the same universal human rights to
an adequate standard of living.

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More importantly our fair housing laws in this country have made it an
obligation for landlords, mortgage brokers, banks, and real estate agents to
provide the same level of service to all home seekers.

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So, what is our next step? We have proposed a follow up audit survey using a
method known as ‘accented caller telephone testing’ that will give us the
opportunity to test a statistically significant number of properties. Here is an

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Thank you very much for your time and attention, I would be happy to
attempt to address any question you might have at this time.