Throughout its history, the United States has been a welcoming place for immigrants. (Statue of Liberty: Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore….)
But our porous borders have led to unprecedented numbers of illegal immigrants over the past two decades. Estimates of illegal immigrants in the United States range from 10 million to 20 million people, depending on which source you use.
Despite all the outcry against illegal immigration, businesses have caught on to the potential and simply see dollar signs. An article in BusinessWeek describes how businesses in various industries are targeting the illegal immigrant market:
At the same time, though, the fast-growing undocumented population is coming to be seen as an untapped engine of growth. In the past several years, big U.S. consumer companies — banks, insurers, mortgage lenders, credit-card outfits, phone carriers, and others — have decided that a market of 11 million or so potential customers is simply too big to ignore.
And it’s not just large businesses that are profiting by marketing to illegal immigrants. Small businesses — ranging from insurance agents, to attorneys, to used car dealers, to check cashing outlets, all the way down to the corner convenience stores — are profiting from this group.
For additional background, there is also an NPR radio segment on the same topic.
The upshot of the story is that no one seems to believe the government will crack down and deport illegal immigrants. One way or another, illegal immigrants will be assimilated into American society, even if it takes the capitalists among us to do it.
How do you feel about this trend? Should businesses sell their products and services to illegal immigrants?
UPDATE July 24: There is also a discussion going on over in the Small Business Trends forum.