Rust Belt cities look to attract immigrants to help turn things around

Rust Belt cities have struggled for decades but are now welcoming seeking out immigrants:

Other struggling cities are trying to restart growth by luring enterprising immigrants, both highly skilled workers and low-wage laborers. In the Midwest, similar initiatives have begun in Chicago, Cleveland, Columbus, Indianapolis, St. Louis and Lansing, Mich., as well as Detroit, as it strives to rise out of bankruptcy. In June, officials from those cities and others met in Detroit to start a common network.

“We want to get back to the entrepreneurial spirit that immigrants bring,” said Richard Herman, a lawyer in Cleveland who advises cities on ideas for development based on immigration.

The new welcome for immigrants reflects a broader shift in public opinion, polls show, as the country leaves behind the worst of the recession. More Americans agree that immigrants, even some in the country illegally, can help the economy, giving impetus to Congressional efforts to overhaul an immigration system that many say is broken.

Concerns about uncontrolled illegal immigration, which produced strict curbs in Arizona and other parts of the country, have not been an issue in Dayton. Officials here say their goal is to invite legal immigrants. But they make no effort to pursue residents without legal status, if they are otherwise law-abiding.

Read on for more information on what happened in Dayton, Ohio which has welcomed thousands of Turkish immigrants. This will be worth watching in the long run.

Three other thoughts:

1. The article doesn’t say much about this but recent immigration debates have been marked by two opposites: more opposition to less educated and skilled immigrants and more interest in educated, wealthier immigrants. Perhaps it doesn’t matter much in Dayton.

2. A student asked me recently where Middle Easterners fit into typical American definitions of race and ethnicity. For example, where do they fit in Census categories? The article suggests the immigrant residents haven’t encountered much opposition in Dayton but they do occupy an unknown sort of racial and ethnic space. (Also see discussions in Europe about Turkish immigrants as well as whether Turkey should be allowed in the European Union.)

3. This article hints at a broader reality: population growth in plenty of places, including a number of suburbs as well as the United States as a whole, has depended heavily on immigration.

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