Arizona has been in the headlines over the last few years for enacting legislation that attempts to bar new immigrants from entering the state, passing controversial laws that allow police to ask for papers at any time and generally creating a tense environment. Recently, new e-mails have shown that SB 1070, the basis of these harsh immigration tactics in Arizona, is racially motivated. But some cities and states in the United States have the opposite feeling towards immigrants. Baltimore has been at the front of a movement that has encouraged immigrants to move to the city and contribute to the population.
MSNBC notes that Baltimore’s Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake signed an order in March that prohibits police from asking about immigration status and bars resources from being used in assessing whether or not someone is following the national immigration law. Michigan’s former House majority leader Steve Tobocman has similar feelings. He heads a group that encourages immigration to the Detroit area, adding to the Washington Post, “Immigrants have a lot to contribute to job creation and economic growth.”
The measures that Mayor Rawlings-Blake put in place are coupled with resources for immigrants, such as English and citizenship classes. The Associated Press notes that many of these forward-thinking leaders actually saw an increase in government funds and population after they began these welcoming policies:
The 2010 census was a tipping point. Most cities that grew had Hispanics and, to a lesser degree, Asians to thank. Cities with few immigrants lost political power and federal money as district lines and funding formulas changed to reflect new census numbers.
Critics of the policy harp on the same logic that has riddled the controversy around Arizona’s SB1070 legislation. They say that encouraging immigration also encourages a large population that does not speak English, and which forces others in a city’s population to adjust. The Maryland Comptroller in 2004, Donald Schaefer said back then, “I don’t want to adjust to another language…This is the United States. I think they ought to adjust to us.”
Critics haven’t said much about the fact that many Spanish-speaking families are an integral part of the fabric of the United States, and have been for centuries. Because of Maryland’s policy which bars officials from asking about the immigration status of an individual, exact numbers as to undocumented immigrants are not available. Baltimore boasts about 45,000 legal foreign-born residents, making it one of the most populous states for immigrants from around the world.
Baltimore’s mayor and many residents feel positively about the change in dynamics in the last ten years. Latino populations have helped slow down a steady population decline in the metropolitan area, boasting about 26,000 Spanish-speaking immigrants in the area. New neighborhoods are flourishing with a variety of stores and resources for the myriad of populations that have come to call Baltimore home, the Associated Press reports. Perhaps a lack of fear and prejudice have allowed for communities to flourish in areas where resources abound at public libraries and community centers.
Critics of these new welcome policies have by no means slunk into the shadows and have continued to say immigrant populations skew favor away from working Americans. Many people have supported the mayor and the many other policies she is introducing in the city, beyond immigration reforms. She also plans to reduce crime and increase job growth in the city through a number of investments, including a plan to decrease property taxes. For now, the city appears to offer a warm and welcoming place for immigrants looking for a home in an increasingly volatile and divided United States.
Photo of Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake: U.S. Navy
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