When it comes to immigration policymaking at the state and local level, all eyes have been focused for quite some time on train wrecks like Arizona and Alabama. These are places in which policymakers have chosen to deal with unauthorized immigration by embarking on a path of economic self-destruction—blindly lashing out at immigrants and Latinos no matter what the cost in terms of wasted taxpayer money, labor-force contraction, lost economic growth, community upheaval, and violations of fundamental human rights.
However, it would be a mistake to imagine that the anti-immigrant hardliners in Arizona and Alabama are representative of policymakers nationwide. In fact, there are many locales in which policymakers are going out of their way to welcome immigrants and to offer assistance as they integrate into the economy, the community, and civic life. Some of these locales are profiled in a recent story in Governing magazine, succinctly entitled “Immigrant-Friendly Cities Want What Arizona Doesn’t.” As the story points out:
“For every government that’s taking a tough line against immigrants, there are others that are embracing immigration-friendly policies… Major cities like New York, Chicago, Detroit and Houston—longstanding immigrant destinations—have begun to revisit their policies in an effort to become more welcoming. But the idea is also taking hold in Middle America, in places like Dayton and Boise, Idaho. It’s not simply out of a sense of goodwill; many leaders see these policy changes as economic development tools.”
Dayton in particular has adopted a comprehensive approach to welcoming immigrants. The story notes that the “Welcome Dayton Plan” covers “everything from health care to public safety.” A section of downtown Dayton is being set aside as “an international marketplace for immigrant entrepreneurs.” Perhaps just as importantly, the Welcoming Dayton Plan is “about changing the city’s culture”—changing the way immigrants are viewed and changing the reception they receive upon their arrival.
At the national level, this goal is also central to the work of the group Welcoming America, which organized a National Welcoming Week that runs from September 15 to September 22. According to the group’s website, the broad aim of this initiative is to “bring together efforts around the country that recognize that our communities are strongest when everyone who lives in them feels welcome.” In addition, Welcoming America wants to lift up the efforts of leaders from New York to Dayton “who have determined that being welcoming to immigrants is essential to their continued economic vitality.”
Welcoming immigrants with proactive policies of incorporation produces healthier, better-educated, more-productive, and higher-earning workers, consumers, entrepreneurs, and taxpayers. Declaring war on immigrants does just the opposite by forcing them further into the economic and social margins.
This revelation continues to elude the leaders of Arizona and Alabama.