Mexico's Richest Man Urges Young US Immigrants Into Workforce

Wednesday, 13 Aug 2014 04:46 PM

 

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Carlos Slim, the Mexican billionaire who ranks as the world’s second-richest person, has introduced a campaign to integrate about half a million young immigrants into the U.S. workforce.

About 1.1 million people in the U.S. are eligible for work authorization under a program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, for undocumented immigrants who arrived to the country as children. Only about half have been approved, Carlos Slim Foundation Chief Executive Officer Roberto Tapia-Conyer said by phone.

“This is a population of great potential, and our goal is to reduce the access barriers for them to reach this potential,” Tapia-Conyer said. “We want to incorporate them to the formal workforce, to build not just them but their families, so they’re able to contribute to the economy.”

Slim, the son of a Lebanese immigrant to Mexico, amassed his fortune by recognizing the depressed value of assets during the country’s financial crisis in the 1980s. He acquired control of former state monopoly Telefonos de Mexico in a 1990 privatization, helping propel him to the echelons of the world’s richest, trailing only Bill Gates with a fortune of $79.2 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

While most of his wealth comes from his companies in Mexico, Slim has investments in the U.S., including the nation’s biggest prepaid phone provider, TracFone, and a minority stake in New York Times Co.

Economic opportunities for DACA beneficiaries have risen since the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced the program two years ago, according to a June research brief from the American Immigration Council. The program’s benefits appear to be the strongest for young people attending four-year colleges and those with college degrees, according to the report.

Still, high application fees and lack of awareness have kept the program from reaching as many people as possible, Tapia-Conyer said. The Slim Foundation has introduced a website that informs potential applicants of requirements needed to apply, including videos that describe how to fill out the forms and direct links to check on an application’s status.

Slim has been praised and criticized for his approach to philanthropy. He has said he won’t join the Giving Pledge started by billionaires Warren Buffett and Gates to encourage the world’s wealthiest people to give away half of their wealth to charity, arguing that it’s more important to develop companies instead, taking people out of poverty through employment.

Hispanics will make up a third of the U.S. population by 2060, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates. Through March, more than 550,000 people had been approved for DACA, mostly from Mexico, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services data.

The Slim Foundation website offers video job-training courses for sought-after professions, ranging from electrician to bank teller, Tapia-Conyer said. Students are tested and then validated for their skills. The site also has links to online classes translated to Spanish from colleges such as Stanford University, through previously announced partnerships with groups like Coursera Inc.

© Copyright 2014 Bloomberg News. All rights reserved.

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