Spokane Journal of Business

Immigrant shops call for reform

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The next time you go into your neighborhood store, you may notice something new. More than 100 small businesses in Spokane have hung posters in their storefronts to highlight the need for immigration reform that includes a road map to citizenship.

I am one of them. Soon, it will be two years since my husband and I made the decision to throw all our savings and prayers into our business. We are proud owners of Love Discounts, a clothing and accessories thrift store in northwest Spokane.

You may be asking why small business owners are voicing their support for immigration reform.

Many of us are immigrants ourselves. Through our own experience or that of a family member, we are intimately aware of how broken our immigration system is. For many of us, it's personal.

But that is not the only reason I support much-needed change. Small-business owners need immigration reform to be about more than just filling low-wage jobs for big corporations. We need it to be about boosting consumer demand in our local economies.

Many of my customers are recent, first-, and second-generation immigrants. But our broken immigration laws often don't allow immigrants who aspire to be American citizens to fully integrate into the economic fabric of our community, causing many of them to live in constant fear that their families will be torn apart.

The needs of a modern economy require modern immigration laws that combine practical business sense with humanity and community values. Whatever new laws Congress enacts this year, they need to include a real road map to citizenship for current and future immigrants. That will help strengthen my customer base, as well as open doors for future business owners throughout the country.

And it turns out that mom-and-pop stores across America, true small businesses, are in agreement that a road map to citizenship has to be part of the solution. According to a national poll conducted by the Main Street Alliance and the American Sustainable Business Council, two-thirds of small business owners (67 percent) support a road map to citizenship for current immigrants.

Moreover, 61 percent of small business owners favor a road map to citizenship for future immigrants over a temporary worker program with no clear path to citizenship.

As a small business owner, I know the importance of hard work and dedication. I also know about taking risks. My amazing husband has run my store with me and has given so much of himself to our community, all while living in constant uncertainty surrounding his immigration status.

I am thankful that I had the opportunity to open Love Discounts. Although the ride has been bumpy and hard at times, my business continues to grow and expand in exciting new ways.

We are doubling our store's square footage. Bargain hunters appreciate what they find, but also appreciate my family and the sense of community you feel when you enter through the door.

My immigrant customers have something in common with small business owners. They are willing to work hard and do what it takes in order to provide a better life for themselves and their families. The success of my business depends on them.

Small business owners agree that a road map to citizenship and comprehensive immigration reform are good for our local economy. And when our local economies thrive, so do our communities.

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