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Children of Immigrants Learn to Thrive in U.S.

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Children of Immigrants Learn to Thrive in U.S.

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Children of Immigrants Learn to Thrive in U.S.

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MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

Now a story about immigrants and their finances.

NPR's Adam Davidson visited a community in New York City where generations of immigrants have worked hard to get ahead.

ADAM DAVIDSON: Walk into Condolaria Botanica(ph) one of the many stores on Roosevelt Avenue in Queens, New York. You can see all the worries of the local immigrant community on display. There are rows of candles for those seeking spiritual aid, one to light if you're trying to avoid the police, others for good health.

Rosie, who won't give her last name, holds up a tall green candle.

ROSIE: Okay this one is particularly for money.

DAVIDSON: Do I say a prayer or say any words or?

ROSIE: You can say a prayer. Some people like to say their own prayers, ask for what they want. Usually they, like, they talk to the candle like if it was a person.

DAVIDSON: There's also scented oils in spray cans, which claim to bring whatever it is you need.

Rosie says most of her customers are Latino immigrants and most of them want help with one thing, money. A few blocks, away Luis Enrique runs an employment agency for Latino immigrants, who, he says, will do almost anything to get money. The worst jobs he has to offer are as dishwashers.

LUIS ENRIQUE: Those guys work hard for nothing, 200, 250, 280.

DAVIDSON: That's a weekly salary.

ENRIQUE: Twelve hours a day.

DAVIDSON: And the jobs are easy to fill. Enrique always has more immigrants who want to work, than jobs to give them. Every once in while, he says, a U.S. born son of an immigrant will come in asking for a job, but they never stay long.

ENRIQUE: Immigrants, we suffering a lot so I never expect one of my sons in the future has the same like me, no. Never. Never.

DAVIDSON: He says kids who grow up in the U.S. get to go to U.S. schools. They learn to speak English like a native. That puts them in a totally different category. They can get better paying jobs. It's exactly what Joseph McCarry(ph) says he's been seeing since he started selling real estate on Roosevelt Avenue 60 years ago. He says immigrants come to the area because the trains are here, so transportation is cheap. There are a lot of small, cheap apartments.

JOSEPH MCCARRY: Each group of immigrants goes through the same thing. They reside here a while, make a little bit of money, improve their living standards, sell their house for a little bit of a profit and move on.

DAVIDSON: It started with Germans and Italians when McCarry grew up here. Then Puerto Ricans and Indians and Columbians. Today there's a growing Chinese population two train stops to the east and Ecuadorians are moving in here.

For 100 years, Jackson Heights, Queens has been like a laboratory of American immigration, hard work and money trouble, followed by home ownership and mostly successful kids.

It's just too soon to know how the current wave of immigrants will fare, but McCarry says he's pretty confident. He's been selling some houses to recent arrivals from Ecuador. Most of them don't speak English, he says, but their kids do.

Adam Davidson, NPR News.

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