Friday, April 16, 2010

Why I don't want to live in Cleveland

OK, this may be preaching to the choir, because I don't really think my readers are trying to build walls across the border or anything, but I was really happy to read this article about immigration. Especially in the face of tea-party related hysteria regarding immigration and amnesty, I think we (non tea partiers) need to make the case more loudly about why we like immigration.

The cool thing about this NYT article is that it addresses both high and low wage - or less delicately, both high and low skill immigrants. It is not super controversial that high wage/ high skill immigrants are a plus for America. They create jobs, pay taxes, teach in our universities, learn English quickly, and come in relatively small numbers - numbers the government essentially controls by determining the number of visas given to high wage/ high skill immigrants. The immigrants that the tea partiers are getting so worked up about, and the ones I think we need to explain our support for loudly in this current political climate, are the low skill/ low wage workers. These workers may cross US borders illegally, or they may come as refugees, or they may come as family of workers already here - it doesn't matter so much. I, anyone who has been to California's central valley, and big agribusiness know that these workers too are key to the American economy - especially in agriculture but probably in other sectors as well. What this article mentions, and I think is even more crucial is that immigrant workers of every skill and wage level are key to the vitality and economic strength of American cities. 

Put it this way - the Cleveland Clinic, and UCSF Hospital probably have similar (similarly high) number of doctors born outside of the US, but what makes San Francisco an world class, vibrant, exciting city and Cleveland (no offense) not are the large, varied immigrant communities. These communities create vibrant and often affordable neighborhoods, draw tourists, and spend their money in San Francisco. Where would you rather live: Orlando or Miami? Brooklyn or Albany? San Diego or Salt Lake City? (I'm not certain about this one but I'm guessing) Toronto or Ottowa? Me too!