Helping Immigrants, Helping Our Communities08 Aug 2012
So much of the news has focused on anti-immigrant policies – like Arizona’s – that we seldom hear about other states and localities that welcome immigrants and offer them protection. Last week was an exception, when two major news outlets broke stories that just might signal a counter trend.
The Washington Post reported that Baltimore is one of many rust-belt cities – like Detroit and Philadelphia – that are trying to attract more immigrants, in the hope of reversing a long-term population bust. [See Baltimore Puts Out Welcome Mat for Immigrants, Hoping to Stop Population Decline, by Carol Morello and Luz Lazo, Washington Post (24.Jul.2012).] Earlier this year, the Post reports, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake ordered city police and social service officials not to ask the immigration status of people they encounter. The city also is providing outreach services for immigrants, including language classes, according to the article.
Immigrants are having a modest but measurable impact on Baltimore’s population, the Post notes, creating a bustling Latino neighborhood in the areas fringing Baltimore’s harbor district, and growing communities of Nepalese and Francophone African refugees. Latino immigrants are helping to steady Baltimore’s urban population base, and according to the Post: “… their numbers more than doubled over the past decade, from 11,000 in 2000 to 26,000 in 2010. They now make up four percent of Baltimore residents, a fraction of their share of the state and national population.”
Meanwhile, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a package of anti-fraud initiatives to protect illegal immigrants from unlicensed immigration consultants and other shady practitioners. [See New York Initiative Aims to Shield Illegal Immigrants from Fraud, by Aaron Edwards, New York Times (25.Jul.2012).] Now that President Obama has promised not to deport certain illegal immigrants who were brought here as children, the Times reports, a rash of new fraud cases is expected, as predatory tricksters swoop down with expensive offers to “help.” According to the Times, “New York will pay for a team of immigration lawyers to work with organizations throughout the state to help illegal immigrants who qualify for the new policy and who seek federal permission to remain in the United States legally.” New York also plans to ensure that immigrants can get reliable, unbiased information on the new policy, and to that end is beefing up its immigrant service hotline, the Times says.
Make no mistake about it: we neither advocate nor condone illegal immigration, but given the problems that anti-immigrant jurisdictions have faced – labor shortages, lawsuits, lost business, bad publicity – who could blame Baltimore and New York for trying a different approach, especially if it breathes new life into their communities?
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