1. Summarize the Valenzuelas' story and explain how it became possible.
2. Point out in what ways the magazine cover illustrates their story and supports the information given
in the text.
3. Examine the journalist's attitude towards people such as the Valenzuelas by analysing his
4. Compare the Valenzuelas'story to that of Candido and America in T. C. Boyle's novel 'The
Tortilla Curtain'. Limit yourself to the most important details.
5. Explain in a letter to the editor of 'Business Week' whether U.S. immigration policy should be liberalized or whether the current restrictions should be maintained.
Companies are getting hooked on the buying power of 11 million undocumented immigrants
Inez and Antonio Valenzuela are a marketer's dream. Young, upwardly mobile, and ready to spend on their
growing family, the Los Angeles couple in many ways reflects the 42 million Hispanics in the U.S. Age 30
and 29, respectively, with two daughters, Esmeralda, 8, and Maria Luisa, 2 months, the duo puts in long
hours, working 4 p.m. to 2 a.m., six days a week, at their bustling streetside taco trailer. From a small
sidewalk stand less than two years ago, they built the business into a hot destination for hungry commuters.
The Valenzuelas (not their real name) bring in revenue well above the U.S. household average of $43,000,
making them a solidly middle-class family that any U.S. consumer-products company would love to reach.
But Inez and Antonio aren't your typical American consumers. They're undocumented
immigrants who live and work in the U.S. illegally. When the couple, along with Esmeralda, crossed the
Mexican border five years ago, they had little money, no jobs, and lacked basic documents such as Social
Security numbers. Guided by friends and family, the couple soon discovered how to navigate the
increasingly above-ground world of illegal residency. At the local Mexican consulate, the Valenzuelas
each signed up for an identification card known as a matricula consular, for which more than half the
applicants are undocumented immigrants, according to the Pew Hispanic center, a Washington think tank.
Scores of financial institutions now accept it for bank accounts, credit cards, and car loans. Next,
they applied to the Internal Revenue Service for individual tax identification numbers (ITINs), allowing
them to pay taxes like any U.S. citizen - and thereby to eventually get a home mortgage.
Today, companies large and small eagerly cater to the Valenzuelas - regardless of their status. In
2003 they paid $11,000 for a used Ford Motor Co. van plus $70,000 more for a gleaming new 30-foot
trailer that now serves as headquarters and kitchen for their restaurant. A local car dealer gave
them a loan for the van based only on Antonio's matricula card and his Mexican driver's license.
Verizon Communications Inc. also accepted his matricula when he signed up for cell- phone service.
So did a Wells Fargo & Co. branch in the predominantly Hispanic neighborhood in northeast Los Angeles
where they live. Having a bank account allows them to pay bills by check and build up their savings.
Their goal: to trade up from a one-bedroom rental to their own home. Eventually, they also hope to
expand their business by buying several more trailers. Matricula holders like the Valenzuelas are
"bringing us all the money that has been under the mattress", says Wells Fargo branch manager Steven
The corporate Establishment's new hunger for the undocumenteds' business could have far-reaching
implications for America's stance on immigration policy, which remains unresolved. Corporations are
helping, essentially, to bring a huge chunk of the underground economy into the mainstream. By finding
ways to treat illegals like any other consumers, companies are in effect legalizing - and legitimizing -
millions of people who technically have no right to be in ihe U.S. It's even happening in mirror image,
with some Mexican companies setling up programs to follow customers who move to the U.S. All this knits
the U.S. and Mexico closer together, further blurring
the border and population distinctions.
The economic impact could be significant. While most analysts peg the number of illegal immigrants at
10 million to 11 million, a recent study by Bear Stearns Asset Management concluded that data on housing
permits, school enrollment, and foreign remittances suggests there could be as many as 20 million. Either
way, experts agree that the undocumented, a majority of whom are Hispanic, are one of the nation's largest
sources of population growth. They add 700,000 new consumers to the economy every year, more even than the
600,000 or so legal immigrants, according to Pew's new study. What's more, 84% of illegals are
18-to-44-year-olds, in their prime spending years, vs. 60% of legal residents.
Source: from Business Week, July 18, 2005; pp.43/44
marketer - s.o. who sells goods or services
taco trailer - cheap mobile restaurant selling Mexican food
revenue - income
to navigate - to find one's way; to understand or deal with something complicated
home mortgage - a legal arrangement in which you borrow money from a bank in order to buy a house
to trade up - to replace sth. you have with sth. better
stance on - attitude towards
to peg - to set sth. at a particular level
remittance - a sum of money that is sent to sb. (Geldüberweisung)