U.S. cities with large immigrant and refugee populations thrive in a variety of ways. There are ways to support this community, which have been proven to make a difference. At the South by Southwest Conference in Austin, Texas, mayors of two sanctuary cities and an expert on smart immigration policy spoke on these issues at “Building Bridges When Others Want to Build Walls.”
Welcoming Immigrants Benefits Everyone
• Immigrants keep America youthful, which is essential to a healthy economy and people.
The average age in Santa Fe, New Mexico, was rising, which is common for expensive tourist destinations, said the city’s mayor, Javier Gonzales. They saw that equalize as their immigrant population grew.
• Cities with more immigrants have lower crime rates.
The 10 U.S. cities with the highest percentage of refugees saw a decrease in violent crime and property crime by as much as 70 percent, from 2006 to 2015, according to New American Economy, an organization that studies immigrants’ impact on the U.S. economy.
Philadelphia, a sanctuary city, is at its lowest crime rate in 30 years, said the city’s mayor, James Kenney.
“One crime is one crime too many, but it’s not our immigrants that are doing so,” he said. “These folks work for a living. They start business. They employ people. They pay taxes when they don’t have the ability to take any advantage of those taxes.”
• Immigrants foster population growth, which fuels a healthy economy
Population growth provides taxes to fund shared services, encourages consumer spending to benefit the local economy, and raises housing values, said panelist Kate Brick, the director of State and Local Initiatives at New American Economy.
“There were no major metros in the United States that grew over the last 40 years without at least 10,000 immigrants joining those communities,” she said.
• Diversity is fun
Citizens of Philadelphia have a great time experiencing a variety of cultures right in their own city.
“You can get around our city and really experience every day almost a global trip,” he said.
Integrate and Protect Migrant Communities
• Immigrant-friendly resolutions
Gonzales passed an immigrant-friendly resolution in Santa Fe, which dictated that police should focus on serious crimes rather than looking at immigration status. And he saw it make a change.
“We saw this incredible move, this development in our community where the new immigrant became very much integrated into the fabric of our community,” he said. “They became job creators. They became young students in our schools.”
Tucson’s mayor, Jonathan Rothschild, passed a similar resolution in December.
Santa Fe also recently passed a confidentiality resolution, stating that government organizations won’t ask about documentation status.