UCR report offers insight to Inland Empire’s immigrant population

UCR’s Center for Social Innovation is exploring the nearly one million immigrants living in Riverside and San Bernardino Counties. Published April 18, a report titled “State of Immigrants in the Inland Empire” aims to offer an extensive view of the Inland Empire’s immigrant population and policy issues that have impacted the population.

The report provides a historical view of immigration in the region, information on the current immigrant population, profiles on immigrants who reside in the region and an overview of recent policies and community efforts. The Center for Social Innovation-Immigrant Research Group, the Inland Coalition for Immigrant Justice and the Immigrant Policy Center all collaborated to publish this report, which intends to “provide a solid foundation of data and shared understanding, to better inform the work of public, for-profit, and nonprofit enterprises in the region,” according to the report.

In an interview with The Highlander, Cecilia Ayon, a professor of public policy at UCR and a contributor to the analysis stated, “Through these collaborations, we are identifying research needs in the community. This report addresses a gap by providing a comprehensiveness profile of immigrants in the region.” This gap refers to the disparities immigrants in the Inland Empire face when it comes to accessing affordable housing and earning fair wages.

The history of immigration in the Inland Empire from the 19th and 20th centuries, such as the increase of the Mexican population that permanently resided in the Inland Empire from the 1920s to the 1950s, is detailed throughout the report. The study found that in the Inland Empire, Latino immigrants mostly live and work in the Coachella Valley and in western regions of Riverside and San Bernardino Counties. Latino immigrants in the Inland Empire are more likely to work in agriculture, transportation and construction compared to other regions in Southern California. Asian immigrants in the Inland Empire primarily reside in Chino Hills, Rancho Cucamonga, Loma Linda, Corona, Temecula and Murrieta. Asian immigrants in the Inland Empire are more likely to work in healthcare compared to those residing in other regions in Southern California.

Immigrants’ access to material in their native language is a key policy issue addressed in the report. Subsequently, the study demonstrates that, “Language access is a major issue affecting Latino and Asian immigrants alike in the region — about 1 in 2 Asian immigrants and about 2 in 3 Latino immigrants have limited English proficiency, meaning that they speak English ‘less than very well.” Furthermore, immigrant access to health insurance is lower in the Inland Empire than it is statewide and the gap in college fulfillment, whether immigrants attend or graduate college, among immigrants in the Inland Empire is very large. What this suggests, based on the study, is that, “These patterns indicate that immigrant communities in Riverside and San Bernardino Counties may need even greater investments in health, language access, and education than similar communities in Los Angeles County and Orange County.”

Aida Yeung/HIGHLANDER

Alton Wang, the assistant director of the Center of Social Innovation, stated in an interview with the Highlander, “As the region continues to grow, it is important to examine key issues pertaining to its immigrant communities, including poverty, education, employment, and social service needs.” In regards to what he hopes this report will offer the community, Wang wrote, “We hope that this report furthers the conversation on how to better support immigrant communities in the Inland region, and to find ways to strengthen these communities—and by extension, strengthening the entire Inland Empire.”

“For some the report will shed light on who the immigrant community is in the IE (Inland Empire), provide a comparison of the immigrant community locally vs statewide,” stated Ayón. She believes that the report can “be a tool that community leaders use to advocate for expanding access to language, health insurance and higher education for immigrant populations.”

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