Are immigrants the solution to a declining population problem in Baltimore, Maryland? Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake thinks so.
Once the second busiest port of entry for immigrants behind New York's famous Ellis Island, Baltimore's Inner Harbor doesn't see much in the way of immigration these days - instead, for the past six decades, Baltimore has seen a consistent population decline, going from the 10th largest city in the nation, to the 24th.
According to the Census Bureau, in the 15-month period following the April 2010 Census, 1,500 Baltimoreans packed up and went elsewhere.
Now Baltimore's Mayor Rawlings-Blake is looking to boost the city's dwindling population by laying out the welcome mat for immigrants. With many states and cities across the country passing laws which discourage immigrants from staying and supporting policies which discriminate against Latinos by encouraging their police force to racially profile – perhaps Mayor Rawlings-Blake is onto something.
Some of the benefits of making Baltimore your home include an executive order which prohibits police and city workers from asking residents about their immigration status; a city that supports Maryland's Dream Act – a law which would ensure any student who graduates from a Maryland high school and comes from a family who has paid taxes, can get in-state tuition; an increasing number of Latino-owned businesses including food markets; Spanish-language nutrition and exercise classes provided by the city; and Spanish-language story time at the library.
"Baltimore is a welcoming city," said Mayor Rawlings-Blake in an interview with NPR.
"It's a city that won't discriminate against them, and that's a message that I think people need to hear at a time when too many cities, too many states are basically putting up a do-not-enter sign. Baltimore is not one of those cities. We are open for business, particularly in the area of Latino immigrants. We've actively recruited Latino immigrants to Baltimore, and when they come here, they're thriving. Many have opened businesses, employed individuals. The Latino members of our community that are in our public school system are thriving. I think it's a win-win."
Tracy López is a bilingual writer living outside the Washington DC metro area. She is the founder of Latinaish.com.