As the owner of All Services Consulting in Hot Springs, Arkansas, Jacquelynn Cadena helps immigrant entrepreneurs run their businesses efficiently and profitably. She advises them on bookkeeping, insurance, and filing taxes — whatever clients need to best serve their customers and the local economy. With hundreds of clients since she opened her doors in 2012, Cadena is filling an important need. There are 1,178 immigrant entrepreneurs in Arkansas’ Fourth Congressional District, in southwest Arkansas, where she lives. In fact, the foreign-born in the district are 33.3 percent more likely to start their own companies than are U.S.-born residents. “Immigrants are very hardworking, family-oriented individuals,” Cadena says. “They take a lot of pride in their workmanship and are extremely reliable in their businesses.” Cadena says the same is true of undocumented immigrants in the district. “The IRS will give them a tax ID number. So they’ll get that and pay their taxes and do things by the book.”
Cadena fell into her current career by accident. In 1980, she was working at a photo studio in Hot Springs when she decided to take a leap and start her own construction business, an industry in which the foreign-born play a significant and key role. Because Cadena spoke some Spanish and helped prospective employees with their paperwork, she developed a positive reputation in the immigrant community. After 15 years, she decided to retire. But when foreign-born workers and business owners continued reaching out for assistance and referred her to their friends and family, she spotted a new business opportunity.
Today, Cadena serves a largely Hispanic clientele. “Restaurants seem to be an area where they excel,” she says. “There are a lot of small Mexican convenience stores, a lot of taco trucks and food trucks, some nail salons and other businesses that cater to their own communities and provide fellowship.”
If you send them away, you’re not only taking away the taxes they pay each year. You’re taking away the local taxes that they pay on these things they’re buying.
Immigrants in the district are far more likely to be of working age than are U.S.-born residents — 72.3 percent are between the ages of 25 and 64 compared with 49.6 percent of U.S.-born residents — and combined they paid $109.8 million in taxes in 2014. They hold $344.8 million in annual spending power in this district alone, money that is spent to “buy clothes, shoes, laptops, phones, go to restaurants, put their kids through school, pay rent,” Cadena says. “They spend money exactly the way you or I do. So if you send them away, you’re not only taking away the taxes they pay each year. You’re taking away the local taxes that they pay on these things they’re buying. The local economy would be heavily impacted.”
Cadena feels so passionately about helping immigrants that she founded the nonprofit Immigration Arkansas Inc., which strives to connect low-income individuals with social services, educational opportunities, and legal assistance, and to help educate Americans about how the country’s immigration system works. “Personally, I don’t know if either the American citizens, resident immigrants, or undocumented immigrants are aware of all of the rules and regulations put into effect by our government,” she says. “So I really want to educate both sides, and try and join our local communities together to encourage our state lawmakers to get something in place for immigration reform.”
One piece of immigration reform Cadena would like to see enacted is a policy that keeps families together, instead of deporting of the mothers and fathers of U.S. citizens, which is what may have happened to a half a million parents between 2009 and 2013. She also thinks there should be a forgiveness program for immigrants who have “made one mistake and are not real criminals,” she says. Violent offenders, however, should be “properly prosecuted, and dealt with in the immigration court systems.”
“I think it is so important that everybody has an opportunity to succeed,” says Cadena.”A lot of immigrant businesses hire employees, pay payroll taxes, and are incorporated in the states where they operate. They also contribute to local economies by spending money on homes, autos, food and purchases. And this creates jobs for other people in our local economy, too.”