Baltimore Puts Out Welcome Mat for Immigrants, Hoping to Stop Population Decline
“The census has shown cities definitively what the population trend is,” said Margie McHugh, an immigration expert with the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute. “It got a lot of smart people in city and state governments looking 10 years ahead and thinking hard about what the economic future for cities could be.”
In Michigan, former state House majority leader Steve Tobocman (D) heads Global Detroit, built around the idea that immigration can drive an economic rebound. The group plans to provide training in how to start “micro enterprises” and has created a “welcome mat” network of social service agencies that offer English and citizenship classes. It hopes to draw both entrepreneurial engineers who graduate from the state’s universities and working-class immigrants who can start small neighborhood businesses.
“Immigrants have a lot to contribute to job creation and economic growth,” Tobocman said.
Most of the immigrant-friendly measures around the country are in their infancy, so it is difficult to assess how effective they are. Philadelphia, for example, saw its population grow for the first time in 60 years after the mayor ordered police in 2009 not to ask about immigration status, but the rise in Hispanic and Asian residents that was responsible for the increase might have happened anyway. Hispanics and Asians are the two fastest-growing groups in the country, more because of their higher birth rates than to immigration.
Critics of ‘sanctuary cities’
Critics say cities that lure immigrants end up with high numbers of undocumented migrants. That also is difficult to measure, particularly now that immigration from Mexico, the largest source of illegal immigration, has dwindled to essentially zero.
The census does not ask immigration status, so it is not possible to say how many of Baltimore’s 45,000 foreign-born residents are here legally. But the Pew Hispanic Center estimated that in 2010, Maryland had the nation’s 10th-largest population of unauthorized immigrants.