For Alfonso Cornejo, president of the Cincinnati USA Hispanic Chamber for six years, answering questions is part of the responsibility of the largest Hispanic organization in town.

After a 2006 study by the Applied Economics Research Institute at the University of Cincinnati showed Hispanic workers have a $2.3 billion impact on the region's economy, the Hispanic Chamber went back for more answers. The result is a second study that focuses on undocumented workers. Released Sept. 9, it can be found at www.hispanicchambercincinnati.com.

Cornejo owns AC & Consulting Associates, which helps companies do business in Latin America and human resources consulting in Latin America and the U.S. Cornejo's resume includes Procter & Gamble, Clorox and Chiquita, so Cornejo is well versed on the business world as well as local Hispanic issues. Cincy asked Cornejo about the highlights of both studies and, of course, the embattled Arizona law.

What did the 2006 economic study find?

When we did the first study, we were extremely surprised by the numbers. Sort of, we knew it, but we didn't know how big Hispanics were for the community. This is 1.2 percent of the population responsible for 2.8 percent of the output for the city.

This is $2.3 billion of economic impact; that's an astonishing number. That number is larger than the two stadiums combined.

Why a second study?


Every time you touch [the issue] of
Hispanics, you always have people that challenge you or have resentment toward us. We got a few comments back saying "those aren't all the Hispanics we're talking about. We're talking about the Hispanics that come here without documentation, and they're doing manual labor." It was very hard for us to put a number on those.

We had a feeling that the output of those was also positive, but we didn't know. So we said, "Well, if the professional Hispanics are contributing $2.3 billion, and we have a feel for how many we have in the manual labor category, maybe they are costing the economy?"

We looked for a number to show the critics to represent the whole picture.

And the results?

We controlled for [a thousand] hypothetical, undocumented immigrants by calculating the money they made, about $10 average on the hour doing jobs no one wanted to do, subtracted for money sent home and an HMO.

We were pleasantly surprised that if you work hard manual labor all year, you make a contribution to the economy.

And the most important thing is that this thousand hypothetical people create 330 jobs that pay more than their jobs. The counterintuitive thing with this is that to reduce unemployment, you need to bring more immigrants, which is exactly the opposite of the pundits on TV. They think you made a mistake. But when you peel the onion, you can see why.

A recent poll showed 45 percent of Ohioans want an immigration law like Arizona's. Your reaction?

It's the way the question was framed. If you frame the question like this: "Will you be in agreement to regularize undocumented workers if they have a job and pay their taxes?" 85 percent tell you yes. If you go with the Arizona law, you are "too macho or too American" or "not American." And I think it's a way to distort the question.

I'm not surprised with the number. We're in the Midwest, which is the most conservative part of the nation.

We are not very welcoming to any new groups.

You might not like Hispanics, but don't use economic reasons.