“Immigrants have a lot to contribute to job creation and economic growth,” Tobocman said.
Most of the immigrant-friendly measures around the country are in their infancy, so it is difficult to assess how effective they are. Philadelphia, for example, saw its population grow for the first time in 60 years after the mayor ordered police in 2009 not to ask about immigration status, but the rise in Hispanic and Asian residents that was responsible for the increase might have happened anyway. Hispanics and Asians are the two fastest-growing groups in the country, more because of their higher birth rates than to immigration.
Critics of ‘sanctuary cities’
Critics say cities that lure immigrants end up with high numbers of undocumented migrants. That also is difficult to measure, particularly now that immigration from Mexico, the largest source of illegal immigration, has dwindled to essentially zero.
The census does not ask immigration status, so it is not possible to say how many of Baltimore’s 45,000 foreign-born residents are here legally. But the Pew Hispanic Center estimated that in 2010, Maryland had the nation’s 10th-largest population of unauthorized immigrants.
Del. Patrick L. McDonough (R-Baltimore County) said he is consulting with Judicial Watch, a conservative think tank, about whether Rawlings-Blake is “aiding and abetting” people who are in the country illegally.
McDonough said the mayor’s order in effect creates a “sanctuary city” that will draw undocumented immigrants who will compete for jobs with current residents. Baltimore’s unemployment rate tops 10 percent; for African American men, it is at least double that.
“For the mayor to want to increase the population of Baltimore City in principle is an admirable thing,” McDonough said. “But by going after people who don’t have a lawful presence, and all of the accompanying cultural and criminal issues associated with that policy, you are counterproductive. You’re going to discourage people who live in the city from continuing to be there.”
Immigrant outreach — such as the city-run classes in Spanish — is just one part of the mayor’s agenda for growing Baltimore. She has programs that aim to improve public schools, reduce crime, cut property taxes and create jobs, increasing the city’s appeal to all residents. The mayor’s order has been her only action aimed at immigrants, though other initiatives are being considered.