More Cities Charting an Immigrant-Friendly Path

Written by on July 31, 2014 in Economics with 1 Comment

4016133284_bd85c826e3_oPositive changes are happening at the local level throughout the country. A growing number of cities, counties, and metropolitan areas get that welcoming immigrants for better and more comprehensive integration is good for their communities. Just within the past week, for example, the Ohio cities of Cincinnati and Springfield officially decided to become more immigrant-friendly. Along with Dayton and the state capital Columbus, several cities in Central and Southwest Ohio now share a common message: “immigrants are welcome here.”

Last week, Cincinnati’s Mayor John Cranley officially kicked off a 78-membertask force on immigration with the goal to make Cincinnati the most immigrant-friendly city in the country. “This is a country of immigrants, and this is a place where immigration is rewarded and thanked,” Cranley said. “We’re all going to be richer and better by being a friendly city for immigrants.” And Thomas Fernandez, co-chair of Cincinnati’s new immigration task force, said the move will be good for business, but added, “That’s not our motivation. Our principle motivation is it is our obligation; our obligation to pay it forward, create the same opportunities others have created for us.” He also noted that “if we make it easy and inviting as much as possible, I think we’ll be able to compete against larger cities that already have programs in place.” With a view toward comprehensive immigrant integration, Cincinnati’s task force will focus on five key areas: economic development, community resources, education and talent retention, international relationships, and rights and safety.

Springfield, which is in House Speaker John Boehner’s congressional district, also officially became more welcoming toward immigrants last week, through the efforts of Welcome Springfield. Specifically, Springfield’s city manager and city commission unanimously approved a resolution declaring the City of Springfield as a place “welcoming of immigrants and immigrant-owned businesses.” “We have these folks in our community and they need to be included and considered part of the community,” Mayor Warren Copeland said. As the Springfield News-Sun observed, the resolution “calls for the city to adopt policies that promote inclusion and integration of immigrants in the community.”

Municipalities charting a goal to become an immigrant-friendly city aren’t exactly new. Other cities, like Chicago, Baltimore, and St. Louis, are also aiming for similar goals. And within the past year, other cities, like Charlotte and Atlanta, have launched similar task forces and working groups composed of a diverse cross-section of the community to learn about and recommend best practices and policies for their cities to become more welcoming and immigrant-friendly. Shelly Bromberg, professor at Miami University, said the actions of Cincinnati and similar cities serve as examples of places “saying we want to see a positive resolution on all sides and we want a positive reaction versus a negative one. Maybe this is a strategy that will produce a more productive conversation.” And as Cranley stated, “I just think it shows cities are on the forefront of long-term economic growth in the country.”

Leaders at the city and metropolitan level play a critical role in cultivating an inclusive environment for all community members, including immigrants and newcomers, and encouraging immigration policies that contribute to community cohesion and economic growth rather than undermine it. Ultimately, the proactive actions many cities are taking to comprehensively grow the human and social capital—without which economic growth would not be possible—in their own communities stands in stark contrast to the lack of action in Washington to upgrade our 20th century immigration system for the 21st century. A growing number of cities and metropolitan areas are doing what they know will strengthen their regions, and are doing what they can to better integrate newcomers into their communities within the current immigration system.

Photo by Chuck Coker.

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  • FriendlyAnonymous

    These cities are making grave mistakes. It’s much better to eliminate all “magnets” for the undocumented/ illegals to seek to unlawfully enter the U.S.

    – Driving licenses issued by states/ commonwealths/ territories that issue such licenses to the undocumented/ illegals should be invalid for federal ID purposes. Period.

    – Build a fence along the traffic corridors along the southern border; it’s more humane to keep the undocumented/ illegals out than to let them in and then deport/ remove.

    – Set-up outside-the-U.S. processing centers (such as in Ciudad Juarez, where the U.S. operates one of its biggest consulates) to accept and process applications for refugee/ asylee status.

    – If a person is missing a passport (e.g., passport destroyed to prevent deportation/ removal from U.S. or other country), that person should not be eligible to apply for any U.S. immigration benefit.

    – As to those already in the U.S. who are undocumented/ illegals, the best solution is to permit a temporary visa program to authorize low-skill jobs. The next-best solution is to permit Green Card (permanent U.S. residence without citizenship); this way, if there’s a criminal issue, they can be deported/ removed. There should be *no* – zero! – citizenship eligibility; these undocumented/ illegals are law-breakers.

    – As an aside, the visa lottery program of the U.S. Department of State should be closed. As should the unskilled worker Green Card (EB-4) program; we get enough unskilled workers from family-based immigration and the undocumented/ illegals. Enough already.

    – As to those who are in the U.S. lawfully, who have followed the meat-grinder process to correctly gain U.S. immigration benefits: grant H-1B and L-1 visas liberally; the market *really* does adjust and regulate the streams; these people comprise >5% of the U.S. workforce and deliver much needed STEM expertise. Clear Green Card backlogs now.