Cincinnati Mayor Vows to Attract More Immigrants to His City

As the national debate over immigration continues to intensify, numerous studies conducted on the effects of immigrants on their respective communities consistently suggest that they boost economic prosperity, create jobs, and decrease crime rates. Nevertheless, the current political climate too often is hostile to immigrants. Some politicians base their rhetoric on the perceived dangers of immigration, even though data indicate that this is a fallacy. Thankfully, there are leaders in the political sphere who are choosing to abandon long-held falsehoods about immigrants and welcome them into their communities. One such example is Cincinnati, Ohio, mayor John Cranley, who announced last week his initiative to make Cincinnati “the most immigrant friendly city in the country.”

Cranley organized a task force, shortly after he took office, in July 2014, comprised of community leaders in business, labor, and service areas tasked with drafting a report on how to make the city more immigrant friendly. The result is a 21-point plan designed to dramatically increase the city’s immigrant population over the next five years. Some major components of the plan include support for immigrant entrepreneurs, attracting immigrant students to local colleges, and improving service gaps in housing and transportation that disproportionately affect the immigrant population. A Center for New Cincinnatians is the cornerstone of the initiative, and is intended to welcome immigrants to the city and provide guidance and resources as they begin their new lives in the United States. [See Cincinnati Launches Plan to Grow Immigrant Population, Businesses, by Staff Writer, WCPO Cincinnati, 29.Oct.2015.]

At a news conference to announce the initiative at the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber headquarters, Cranley announced the he wanted Cincinnati to be “… an asylum city, a Statue of Liberty city. We want to be a city of growth and economic opportunity.” Cranley’s decision to not only welcome immigrants, but to actively attract them to his city, makes perfect economic sense. Foreign-born Cincinnatians comprise only 3.5 percent of the population, yet they wield $1.5 billion in spending power and contribute over $189 million in state and local taxes annually. They also start businesses at a higher rate than that of the native-born population. [See Immigrants are Good for Business, and the City has a Plan to Bring More to Cincinnati, by Chris Wetterich, BizJournals, 28.Oct.2015.]

Tom Fernandez, a co-chair of the immigration task force commissioned by Cranley, predicted that the immigrants drawn to Cincinnati by the new initiative “… are going to impact our economy, our social network within the city.” Hopefully, other political leaders around the nation will begin to adopt Cranley’s attitude towards immigrants. Embracing immigration in a community isn’t just the “… right thing to do …” – it’s also smart fiscal policy and good politics. Immigrants are an invaluable resource, and as they continue to contribute socially and economically to their communities, political leaders who welcome them very well may be rewarded at election time.


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