Developing strategies to end hunger

108 posts categorized "Immigration"

Data to End Hunger: Immigrant Poverty Data

Data poverty
It’s important for immigrants who are undocumented to maintain a low profile – in particular to avoid attention from the government. But this also makes it difficult to obtain data on this group, estimated to include 11 million to 12 million people.

Even basic data -- such as how many unauthorized immigrants are in the United States – are at best estimates based on an analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data. To encourage full participation of immigrants in the census, the Census Bureau does not ask about immigration status. Neither is this information collected by any other government agency. The commonly agreed-upon figure of 11 million to 12 million undocumented immigrants is based on the work of research organizations, including the Pew Hispanic Trends Project, which analyze Census data to arrive at estimates of the raw numbers.

With no clear idea of exactly how many people are in the group, it is even more difficult to measure indicators of their socioeconomic status -- the data are even scarcer. For example, poverty rates among unauthorized immigrants:  there are several studies, but they arrive at different findings. On the lower side, the Pew Hispanic Trends Project estimated that 21 percent of unauthorized immigrant adults live in poverty, and one-third of the children of unauthorized parents (most of whom are U.S. citizens) live in poverty.

Those poverty rates are far too high for a wealthy country such as the United States – and yet they are lower than those found by other researchers. For example, the Public Policy Institute of California has estimated that roughly a third of all immigrants live in poverty.

The available data on poverty, while sparse and not consistent, is better than that on food security and hunger -- which is almost nonexistent. At the national level, there is data on food insecurity rates among immigrants. USDA estimates that during the period 2003-2010, 23 percent of recent immigrants, 25 percent of long-term immigrants, and 15 percent of naturalized immigrants were food insecure, compared with 18 percent for the U.S. population as a whole. But there is very little national-level data that looks specifically at food insecurity among unauthorized immigrants.

Most hunger and food insecurity statistics for unauthorized immigrants are only available at the state level, usually through university-led research. Even then, some of the research is dated and uses small sample sizes. Iowa State University found that 41 percent of Spanish-speaking respondents in Iowa were food insecure. But this was an inexact measure of food insecurity among unauthorized immigrants since Spanish speakers were used as a proxy. Similarly,  surveys in North Carolina found that food insecurity rates ranged from 36 percent to 42 percent among Latino immigrant families in the state.

The bottom line is that there is much we don’t know about the socioeconomic status of unauthorized immigrants. This is yet another reason to enact immigration reforms that legalize immigrants. In addition to the economic benefits for immigrant families, bringing undocumented workers out of the shadows will also help researchers better understand their socioeconomic realities, including how and why they experience poverty and food insecurity.  And identifying problems is an essential first step toward solving them.

Andrew Wainer

Legacy of the Great Recession: Latino Child Poverty

 Hispanic Children Hardest Hit by Great Recession

One of the legacies of the nation’s sluggish recovery from the Great Recession is continuing child poverty. Many groups were set back economically by the recession, but perhaps no group endured harsher consequences than Hispanic children, particularly Hispanic immigrant children.

In 2010, more Hispanic children were living in poverty—6.1 million—than children of any other racial or ethnic group. This was the first time in U.S. history that the single largest group of poor children was not white.

Part of this spike in child poverty rates among Hispanics is due to the mixed immigration status of many families. In numerous immigrant families, the children are U.S.-born citizens, but one or both of the parents is an unauthorized immigrant.

Hispanic children with immigrant parents are even more vulnerable to poverty (40 percent) than those with citizen parents (28 percent). This is due in part to the limited job opportunities open to immigrants and their circumscribed access to social safety nets.

Poverty is a complex issue. But it would certainly help the children of immigrants if parents could regularize their immigration status. Immigration reform, by enabling immigrants to better support themselves and their children, would contribute to lower poverty rates among immigrant and mixed-status families.

  Andrew Wainer


Humane Deportation Policy

Removals Rise through Three Administrations

Deportations have risen steadily through the last three U.S. presidencies. Under increased pressure, President Obama has pledged to review his administration's deporation policy.

Immigration advocates are continuing to take a “dual track” when it comes to pressuring the federal government on immigration reform, targeting both President Obama and House Republicans.

This week House Democrats introduced a discharge petition designed to force Speaker John Boehner to act on reform. As was predicted by both Democrats and Republicans, the measure failed, but it did draw more attention to the stalemate in the House.

While Congress remains mired, there may be more reason for optimism when it comes to administrative changes that improve U.S. policies on the deportation of unauthorized immigrants. The White House has been facing increasing grassroots pressure to stop deportations, and this month President Obama announced that the administration would review its deportation policy to see if it was possible to make it more humane within the bounds of the law.  

President Obama is working with both members of Congress and activists. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson has been directed to review his agency's approach. Reports from the media indicate there are some very sensible and middle-of-the-road solutions under consideration. One of them is to “ease or stop deportations of foreigners who have no criminal convictions other than immigration violations.” According to this report, deportation resources would be shifted to target people who have been charged with or convicted of crimes and may pose a threat to public safety.

Such a change may help ease the outrage of grassroots immigration activists, who point out that the Obama administration has already deported about 2 million unauthorized immigrants. Many of them faced no criminal charges and had been living in a family and working. The proposal would thus also help stem the separation of immigrant families.  Andrew Wainer

Pressure Mounts on Obama Administration to Defer Deportations

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A photo of an immigrant in North Carolina, who lives in the United States without legal authorization. (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)

During a 2008 television interview on a presidential campaign stop, then-Sen. Barack Obama told Univision anchor Jorge Ramos, “I can guarantee that we will have, in the first year, an immigration bill that I strongly support.”

Six years later, however, immigration reform remains mired in Congress. While the Senate produced a bipartisan comprehensive immigration bill in 2013, and President Obama supported it, it did not become the law of the land. Meanwhile, during the Obama administration, an estimated 2 million unauthorized immigrants have been deported – more than under any president in history.

After the Senate bill was passed, advocates turned their efforts to House Republicans, pressing them to engage with the Senate legislation and take action on reform. In the past year, House Republicans have taken small steps that led to a set of immigration reform principles seen as a major step forward in their thinking on the issue. Hopes for quick change were subsequently dimmed, however, when House Speaker John Boehner indicated that Republicans were unlikely to move on reform because they did not trust the president to enforce new immigration laws.

Advocates who see House Republications as a lost cause in the near term are increasingly focusing their frustration on Obama. They are led by Latino media personalities such as Univision’s Ramos, who has been called the “Walter Cronkite of Hispanic media.”

“There has been a shift within the Hispanic media,” Ramos said this month. “If you read the editorial pages in the most important Spanish language newspapers, you notice immediately how the conversation has changed from attacking Republicans to attacking Obama.”

Last week, this growing frustration caused President Obama to announce that the Department of Homeland Security will conduct a review of deportation policies to see if they can be done “more humanely within the confines of the law.” The announcement came after the president's meeting with a group of Hispanic members of Congress who directly conveyed the growing anger among the Latino community and immigration reform advocates.

Americans support legalization for immigrants: 73 percent have called for legalizing immigrants, while only 24 percent said that unauthorized immigrants should not be allowed a path to legalization or citizenship. As long as Congress remains stalemated, Americans’ strong support for legalization will not be reflected in national policy. Last week immigration advocates scored a win with the announcement of the Department of Homeland Security review, but it remains to be seen whether this announcement will ultimately result in relief for immigrant families. Andrew Wainer

Public, Policymakers Divided On Immigration Reform Details

Immigration reform momentum has slowed in recent weeks as House Speaker John Boehner questioned whether an immigration bill could pass the House due to Republicans’, “Widespread doubt about whether this administration can be trusted to enforce our laws.”

But even as reform was put on the legislative back-burner, there is a growing general consensus in public opinion and in Congress about how to move forward. Even after indicating that immigration would not be among House Republican legislative priorities early this year, both President Obama and Boehner said that during a rare hour-long face-to-face meeting at the White House, the issue they most agreed upon was immigration. But for Congress and the public, the devil is in the details.

Recent poling from the Pew Research Center shows broad support for the general outlines of some of the most controversial components of reform. For example almost three-fourths of respondents (73 percent) said that “immigrants living in the United States illegally should have a way to stay legally.”

                        Data about opinions on legal status and a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants

But the broad agreement among the public breaks down when it comes to what type of legal status qualifying unauthorized immigrants should be granted. Almost half of all respondents (46 percent) said that immigrants should be granted a path to citizenship while about a quarter (24 percent) said they should be eligible to apply only for permanent residency status. The remaining quarter of respondents said that unauthorized immigrants should not be allowed to stay in the United States at all.

This also reflects the divides among policymakers. While Democrats generally support immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants, Republicans have proposed  a path to legalization for most immigrants with no "special path to citizenship."

The Republican principles on immigration reform that allowed for a general legalization of unauthorized immigrants was a major step toward building a bipartisan consensus. But bridging the details among the public and the political parties on the path forward for unauthorized immigrants will be one of many thorny policy details that will be at the forefront of discussion and debate during 2014.

  Andrew Wainer

Meet Ofelio: Small Businesses in Low-income Communities

Ofelio Intro Photo

Ofelio prepares Tamales in his kitchen. (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World)

Ofelio left his home in rural Mexico almost 30 years ago with no family in the United States, no knowledge of English, but a strong work ethic and determination to find a better life. He hasn't been able to return to Mexico for more than 20 years, even though his parents, both in their 80s, would like to see him for what would likely be the last time. He still wonders if it was a mistake to come to the United States. Like most immigrants, he wanted the things for his children that are harder to come by in much of Latin America: a secure home, plentiful food, and an education to prepare them for success. He did find some of these things in the United States, but it cost him dearly in health and well-being.

Ofelio’s first job in the United States was washing dishes in a New York City restaurant at a sub-minimum wage. To keep his job he was expected to work seven days a week, 12 hours a day with no sick days, vacation time, or promise of job security. His employers often asked him to work extra hours without pay. He knew that if he objected they wouldn’t think twice about replacing him. Ten years of life on poverty level wages drove Ofelio into a state of deep depression that he says almost killed him.

Businesses Like Ofelio's Have a Hard Time Finding Banks that Will Invest in Them

Ofelio started making tamales out of his home nine years ago for people at his largely Latino church. After a few months, he was getting orders on a regular basis, and the prospect of making a living from tamales grew as he built up a client base in the city’s Latino community. With a lot of hard work and the help of a local nonprofit, Ofelio was able to obtain all of the necessary permits and certifications to legitimize his catering business. He now has insurance, a bank account, and even a website and business cards. As a single father of three, Ofelio knows that the business is his family’s lifeline, and his income still provides little more than essential needs. He combines tamale order drop-offs with school pick-ups and prepares tamales and family meals in the same kitchen.

If you ask Ofelio about his ideas for the future of his business, his eyes light up. He has many, like renting a commercial kitchen to increase production, purchasing a delivery vehicle, and hiring full-time help. Beyond the business, he’d love to take classes to improve his English and be able to provide quality childcare for his two youngest daughters. These kinds of investments are only possible with the help of a business loan. But Ofelio has been denied that help from banks, which deem his business too small and too much of a risk. Without access to capital, Ofelio has no means of moving his business—and his family—beyond just barely making it.

A federal bond program established under the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010 authorized the issuance of long-term bonds at low-interest rates to fund community development finance institutions (CDFIs), which in turn provide small loans to businesses like Ofelio’s. The program was supposed to operate from 2011 to 2014, but was held up in Congress for more than two years pending approval on how it should be run. The delay resulted in $2 billion less in loans to support entrepreneurs like Ofelio. Congress should have moved more quickly and the administration should have been a stronger advocate for the program to overcome the delays. Entrepreneurs in low-income communities are the bedrock of the workforce. Investing in them grows opportunity for all of us and enables more people to work their own way out of poverty and hunger.

Fostering micro-entrepreneurship is one critical piece of the 2014 Hunger Report’s jobs agenda—the first pivotal step toward reversing record hunger rates in America.  

Visit to view more photos and data from Ofelio’s story and read more about the role that a jobs agenda plays in our four-part plan to end hunger in America. 

Derek Schwabe

Fasting and Demonstrating for Immigration Reform

Photo for Michelle G's immigration post

In the final weeks of 2013, activists for immigration and labor rights, many of them faith-based, kept up the pressure for immigration reform. An initiative that garnered significant media coverage was“Fast for Families” on the National Mall. It was launched November 12 with a morning press conference and evening prayer vigil, and concluded December 12 with peaceful protests in the offices of U.S. representatives. At the launch, prominent leaders spoke of the moral crisis caused by our country’s broken immigration system and its impact on millions of families. Many speakers made a commitment to participate in the fast.

During each day of the fast, participants refrained from eating until after sundown. The goal of the fast was to “send a clear and visible message to Congress” that the current immigration system needs to be fixed. According to Rev. Noel Anderson, a grassroots organizer for immigrant rights with Church World Service, the fast brought attention to the fact that millions of families are being separated as a result of our broken immigration system. “Millions live in daily fear that their mom, dad, sister, or brother could be detained or deported,” he said. “We are at a point where we have to escalate our efforts, expose the injustice, and engage the heart of our country.”

Eliseo Medina, secretary-treasurer of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), said that he was personally motivated to fast. “Doing without food will not be easy, and I know that I will suffer physical hunger. But there is a deeper hunger within us,” Medina said. “A hunger for an end to a system that creates such misery among those that come here to escape poverty and violence in search of the American dream, yet too often find death or mistreatment.”

On December 12, at the conclusion of the fast, more than 1,000 advocates fanned out through the office buildings of the House of Representatives at midday, occupying the offices of more than 170 Republican and four Democratic lawmakers for about an hour. In the office of Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia, the second-ranking House Republican, half a dozen protesters sat on the carpet, chanting and praying. The Rev. Carmelo Santos, a Lutheran pastor from Springfield, VA, prayed in English and Spanish for Rep. Cantor to “find his way to a good compromise” to provide a path to citizenship for more than 11 million immigrants who are in the country illegally.

Bread for the World emphasizes the role of immigration as an exodus from hunger and poverty. Because poverty is more common among unauthorized immigrants than others in the United States, ranging from 21 percent to 35 percent,immigration reform would help reduce U.S. hunger and poverty.

             Michelle Gilligan       

Infographic: Four Steps to Ending Hunger in America

Hunger Report Monday 2

A fresh Hunger Report always comes with a new weekly blog series to break it down -- a space to examine the recommendations more closely and consider their ramifications in the context of recent events. This is that space. Welcome to week one. 

To start the 2014 Hunger Report Monday series, we're recapping -- through visuals -- the report's central recommendation: to put an end to hunger in the United States by 2030. Our research confirms that: 1) hunger is a significant, long-ignored problem in America; 2) the U.S. government and population are fully capable of solving the problem; and 3), ending hunger will take decisive leadership, firm political will, and a clear national plan. This infographic sums up our vision of what that plan should look like in four steps:

We will not achieve a lasting end to hunger without a commitment to all four parts of this plan. Because problems like hunger are multifaceted, their solutions must be as well. Policies tend to address social problems in isolation from each other. Instead we should be thinking holistically, which makes it possible to see the relationships between various causes of the problem.

Right now, Bread for the World members around the country are urging the president and Congress to recognize the reality of America's broken social contract and set a clear course for solutions by adopting a plan to end hunger. President Obama took a promising first step last week with his speech on the problem of widening income and wealth inequality in the United States, with mentions of such contributing factors as the stagnant minimum wage, which continues to hold low-wage workers and their families below the poverty line. Inequality and the policies that perpetuate it are top concerns of this year’s Hunger Report.

You can sift through the specifics of the four-step plan to end hunger by starting with the 2014 Hunger Report Executive Summary, available for download in PDF or ebook formats in both English and Spanish. Next week, we'll continue our visual survey of the report's top messages with other new infographics.

Derek Schwabe

The 2014 Hunger Report in Tweets

The 2014 Hunger Report, Ending Hunger in America, was launched just before Thanksgiving. For the past month, Institute Notes has featured a series of posts offering previews of the report. We pointed out that widespread hunger now threatens to become a scandalous “new normal” situation in the United States – it’s risen by nearly 40 percent since 2000.We made the case that not only is it an achievable goal to undo the damage the Great Recession did to U.S. food security, but it is also feasible to eradicate hunger entirely by 2030. We presented a carefully researched four-step plan that leaders at all levels, in partnership with local communities, can use to end hunger in our country. Our most recent post, coinciding with the report launch on November 25, offers a brief recap of these four steps.

In just the few days since the launch, we’ve received a lot of feedback -- on the launch presentation, the report, and the exciting new ways we’re presenting its messages on Here’s a quick round-up of what our partners and friends have been talking about: 

1. An Expert Panel of Perspectives

No one has more authority to speak on hunger in America than those who have experienced it. At the Hunger Report launch, panelists Barbie Izquierdo, Dominic Duren, and Sharon Thornberry helped humanize the effects of even a seemingly small change in policy or funding.

2. No Paper Needed

The executive summary is available for iPad and eReader download, and the entire report can now be read in page-flipping book format at

3. Interactive Stories

The policies examined in the 2014 Hunger Report have very real impact for millions of Americans. At we present four stories that combine multimedia and interactive data to make that clearer than ever.

4. Infographics to Share

Hunger’s causes and solutions are complex. That’s why we need the full report to give them the space they deserve. But a good place to start is with the 2014 Hunger Report infographics -- to get the top messages of the report in bite-size form, and pass them on through social media. 

5. Hope

The panel of speakers at the launch agreed that it doesn’t have to be this way. Ending hunger is not an impossible dream. With strong commitment and the right tools, we really can end it.

Check out to explore all of the tools available to Hunger Report readers, and if you missed them, be sure to read  blog posts onetwothree, four, and five of the 2014 Hunger Report series.

Derek Schwabe

Immigrants Revitalize the Rust Belt

Rust belt photo

Amid the debate over potentially the biggest reform of immigration law in 50 years, American communities struggling with decades of population loss and economic decline are being revitalized by newcomers. The economic contribution of immigrants in high-skilled fields is relatively well known, but less acknowledged are the contributions that blue-collar immigrants play in revitalizing depressed communities and economies, both as manual laborers and small-business entrepreneurs.

In Rust Belt communities such as Baltimore, Detroit, and rural southeastern Iowa, immigration has slowed—and in some cases reversed—decades of population loss. In July 2012, after 60 years of population decline, Baltimore’s population actually increased, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The increase was attributed in part to growing international migration. Detroit is infamous for its steep population decline since 1950.

But the drop would be even more significant if it were not for an influx of immigrants from Latin America. Between 2000 and 2010, Detroit lost 237,000 residents— 25 percent of the total population in just 10 years. But the city’s southwest immigrant neighborhoods, an area known as “Mexicantown,” actually increased in population.

Immigration isn’t revitalizing only cities; newcomers also inject life into rural American communities that might otherwise be vanishing. Rural Iowa has lost population every decade since 1920 – in fact, there are fewer people in rural Iowa now than there were a century ago. But immigrants have sustained some towns. Between 2000 and 2010, Iowa’s Latino population increased by 84 percent, while the total state population increased only 4 percent over the same decade. As other cities in southeastern Iowa have declined, towns such as West Liberty (population 3,742) have a stable population and economy because of immigrants. 

In addition to supporting communities that are experiencing overall population loss, immigrants are making disproportionate contributions to Rust Belt economies, particularly to Rust Belt cities such as Detroit, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, and St. Louis.

As they have throughout much of U.S. history, immigrants make up a disproportionate share of our country’s entrepreneurs. Their business initiative is evident in some Rust Belt commercial corridors, where immigrant entrepreneurs large and small contribute dynamism and innovation to the economy. While immigrants are 13 percent of the national population and 16 percent of the labor force, they comprise 18 percent of small business owners. Nationally, immigrant-owned small businesses employ 4.7 million people and generate $776 billion in income. Immigrants’ propensity for business ownership is even more pronounced in the Rust Belt than in the country as a whole.

In order to realize their full potential economic impact on the Rust Belt, unauthorized immigrants need legalization and a path to citizenship. Without this, they live in a climate of fear even as they help struggling U.S. cities and towns survive. It is up to national policymakers to reform our immigration system so that newcomers can support their families and make a fuller economic contribution to the nation – particularly to the cities and towns that need it most. 

 Andrew Wainer

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