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San Francisco Still a Welcoming Place for the Immigrants

Scott Lucas | April 16, 2014 | Story Politics

Welcome to San Francisco. We really do want you to feel welcome here, but don't expect the city to actually do much in the way of real help.

That seems to be the major takeaway from a new study by the San Francisco Immigrant Legal & Education Network, which sheds light on foreign-born migrants, who comprise nearly 40% of the city's adult population. The study finds that although the city's immigrant community feels welcomed and accepted, they face major obstacles in securing jobs and housing. For the most part, San Francisco's sanctuary city approach seems to be paying off: 63% of those in the 625-person study reported that they felt adjusted to United State culture, the same amount who said that they had come to the city to lead a better life.

The study, which was done in Spanish, Chinese, Tagalog, Arabic, Tigrinya, and English, found a diverse group of immigrants coming to San Francisco: 44% of them were born in China, 24% in Mexico, 6% in Hong Kong or Macau, 5% in Guatemala, 4% in El Salvador, and 4% in Eritrea. Of those surveyed, 20% were undocumented immigrants, a category in which the vast majority of respondents were likely to be Latino. By contrast, naturalized or permanent legal residents were likely to be Asian.

The study pointed to a number of challenges facing immigrants—especially in areas of housing and jobs. Of those in the study, 45% indicated being out of work—and only 21% were working part time. The study also found that immigrants were more likely to cluster in low-paying job categories. 21% worked in janitorial services, 18.8% in the restaurant industry, 18.3% in domestic work, 12.7% in childcare, and 10.6% in retail. On the bright side, 70% of those surveyed said that they had been able to access health care services.

They also said that employment services were inaccessible thanks to language barriers. Additionally, 45% indicated that their housing requirements were not being met and 58% had trouble accessing services. The report also addresses policy recommendations, including a centralized housing database, identifying workforce pipelines, and expanding worker protection laws.

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