The Cooperative Form: A Tool to Empower Immigrant Entrepreneurs and their Communities

by Mike Lam

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According to the American Community Survey, the U.S. immigrant population stood at more than 43.3 million, or 13.5 percent, of the total U.S. population in 2015.[1] Over forty percent of immigrants in the U.S. live in or are near living in poverty.[2] In addition to facing an amalgam of legal, social, and economic barriers, immigrant entrepreneurs must also resolve the complex racial, wealth and income inequalities prevalent across the nation.

During my 1L summer at a law firm in Minneapolis, I learned how the cooperative legal form empowered capable, hard-working, and entrepreneurial immigrants to create jobs within the community. A cooperative is a type of corporation formed under state statutes.[3] Cooperatives are distinct legal entities from their owners.[4] Cooperatives can be difficult to distinguish from other types of corporations because many features, such as fiduciary duties, limited liability, and boards of directors, exist in cooperatives as well. The key distinguishing feature, however, is that members and users of the cooperatives services own and control the business.[5] The Mercado Central market, a thriving marketplace of thirty-five businesses that aims to foster business development for Latinos, used the cooperative structure as a tool to create businesses, jobs, and a sustainable marketplace for the benefit of the community and its members.[6]

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States Can Help Protect Immigrant Workers from Exploitation

by Mackenzie Yee

All workers, no matter where they were born, should be able to work under fair and safe conditions. No worker should be subject to exploitation, and there has been legislation at both the federal and state levels protecting workers’ rights, regardless of their immigration status.[1] Still, low-income immigrant workers, and particularly those who are undocumented, are especially at risk of being exploited in the workplace.[2]

Employers are able to exploit immigrant workers by threatening to report their immigration status if they complain about workplace abuses.[3] As a result, a handful of states have adopted laws prohibiting this type of extortion. The most recent such law was passed in May 2016, when Maryland became only the fourth state to pass a bill amending its extortion law to include threatening to report someone’s immigration status as criminal extortion if such threat is used to obtain something of value.[4] This law follows similar ones passed in Virginia and Colorado in 2006, and in California in 2013.[5]

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Public Education: A Social Good and A Stepping Stone

by Gabrielle Rejouis

In light of the recent confirmation of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education, experts and proponents for public education raise concerns about the future of state-funded education in America.[1] While I attended private school from preschool through 12th grade, my experiences as a first-generation American has influenced my understanding of the importance and need for free public education. Free public education was not an option when my parents grew up in Haiti. They both attended private school. My paternal grandfather and maternal grandmother immigrated to America to work and would send money back to Haiti to pay for the cost of my parents’ tuition and uniforms. Both sets of my grandparents valued education. When my parents immigrated to the United States and joined their parents in New Jersey as teenagers, they completed their high school education at public school before earning their bachelors and master degrees. Public education provided a bridge for my parents to navigate the new culture and new surroundings. It also allowed my parents to establish a strong foundation in America and lift their family out of poverty.

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