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 language.
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.

Embracing Illegals

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 Contreraz.

Growth Engine
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)

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