While states like Alabama and Arizona are fighting tooth and nail to keep immigrants out, Mayors Rahm Emanuel of Chicago and Baltimore’s Stephanie Rawlings-Blake are welcoming more immigrants into their cities. Both considered progressive and liberal mayors, they hope to boost their city’s economy by creating immigrant-friendly cities.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel, or more famously known for being the former Chief of Staff to President Obama, recently passed a “Welcome City Ordinance” that protects law-abiding immigrants from being questioned about their immigration status by police and City services. He aims to protect “those who play by the rules” and “prevent law-abiding Chicagoans from being unfairly detained and deported”. The ordinance is quite the opposite to Arizona’s Immigration Law that allows police to detain anyone suspected of being in the US illegally, and requires everyone to have registration documents on them at all times.
Chicago has historically been considered a safe-haven for undocumented immigrants around the country. Emanuel hopes the ordinance will solve the city’s crime problem because more witnesses to crime will not be afraid to speak up. The passage of the ordinance came after much criticism of Emanuel for not doing enough for immigration reform while working in the Obama administration, and after a report by the Chicago Sun Times that said Latinos are under-represented in Emanuel’s cabinet.
While Emanuel may have been pressured by immigrant rights group in his city to reform immigration policies, Rawlings-Blake believes it was crucial to open the city doors to immigrants because of population decline.
The city of Baltimore’s population was at its highest in 1950 at 950,000 residents. Since then, the population has declined to a staggering 650,000 now according to this Washington Post report.Rawlings-Blake hopes to mimic Philadelphia’s immigrant-friendly measure that helped increase the population for the first time in 60 years. She has pushed for an end of police-questioning of law-abiding immigrants, and has expanded social services to cover more immigrants.
Baltimore badly needs to jump-start job creation in order to reverse years of economic decline. Rawlings-Blake believes immigrants will have strong role to play in improving the city’s future.
Regardless of what the motivation may have been for both Mayors, the outcome is the same: there’s hope in the midst of this ugly debate on immigration. More importantly, the President may soon have proof that immigrants really can be one of the pillars in economic growth, and not its downfall.