Immigrants Welcome in Baltimore

While some states – notably Arizona – have grabbed newspaper headlines in recent years for tough immigration policies, some communities and states have actually been trying to encourage immigration. Baltimore is a city spearheading the movement in many ways. Residents of Baltimore believe that immigration grows the population and the local economy, and as such should be encouraged.

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake signed an order back in March of this year banning police from asking defendants and those stopped at police checks about immigration status. That order is in direct contrast to laws in places such as Arizona, where police are mandated to ask about immigration status. The order signed by Rawlings-Blake also prevents resources from being used to determine immigration violations. Baltimore is also making citizenship classes and English classes available to encourage newcomers. Baltimore has about 45,000 non-US born residents, although the number of undocumented immigrants in the city is unknown.

Baltimore reports that the 26,000 Spanish-speaking residents in the city have helped address the issue of urban population decline. Thanks to the newcomers, new neighborhoods are growing and resources and stores aimed at the growing population have also meant more jobs. Many community resources have also grown, in part thanks to the demand from newcomers.

In Detroit, former House majority leader Steve Tobocman is part of a group that hopes to bring immigrants to the area. Detroit has been hard hit by the recent recession and Tobocman and others believe that immigration will spur job creation and economic growth.

In places where immigration is encouraged, community leaders report jumps in population and more government funding. According to statistics, cities with fewer immigrants had less money and political clout while cities that had growing populations – largely due to more Hispanic and Asian residents – saw an increase in power and economic growth.

Not everyone encourages immigration, of course. Those who oppose it say that encouraging immigration pushes those who are already in the community to adjust to new languages and traditions. A few residents do not like the idea of immigrants who cannot speak English, for example. Some allege that immigrants should not be encouraged at a time when many Americans do not have jobs, although many experts note that immigration can actually stimulate the economy and encourage job growth. Studies have shown that foreign-born populations actually are more often entrepreneurs in the US, leading to the creation of new businesses and jobs.