Predictably, the hearing attracted a diverse crowd, including a group of people normally overlooked in the illegal immigration debate: other immigrants.
To put it lightly, they are not happy with the ordinance.
Rui Dai, a Chinese American, is largely concerned about the effect of illegal immigrants on her 8-year-old daughter’s chance at the American Dream.
She has good reason to be concerned. Montgomery County has grown poorer, and illegal immigrants are at least partly to blame. According to research by the Brookings Institution, between 2007 and 2010, Montgomery County shed more than 37,000 jobs, the number of residents living below the federal poverty line grew by two-thirds, and the poverty rate increased by nearly 3 percentage points.
At the same time, the county has experienced a staggering influx of immigration — legal and illegal. In 1990, immigrants accounted for less than 20 percent of the population. Now, they make up one-third of Montgomery County’s population and almost 40 percent of residents living in poverty.
Montgomery County schools are taking the brunt of this socioeconomic decline. Writing in the Atlantic, Melinda Anderson outlined the effects of Montgomery County’s “skyrocketing growth of non-English speaking youth in suburban school districts,” concluding that Montgomery County schools are “ill-equipped to meet the rapid pace of change.” At Blair High School, for example, Hispanics make up the largest racial or ethnic group, and more than half of all students are eligible for free-and-reduced meals, a clear mark of poverty. In response, Maryland County Public Schools have vowed to make “significant investments to ensure [immigrant and refugee] students receive the resources they need to succeed.”
Such “significant investments” are cause for further concern, especially for landlords such as Nancy Shih, an immigrant from Taiwan. The Montgomery County Council recently raised property taxes, cut teachers’ and firefighters’ raises and increased the county’s tax on home sales. County Council member Marc Elrich (D-At Large) defended the measures by saying, “There are no civilizations in history that are remembered for their tax rates, none. Name one. People are remembered for what they did, good or bad, but they’re not remembered for how they taxed people.” Challenge accepted, Mr. Elrich. See the American Revolution.
There is also the underlying inequity of the proposed ordinance. “I respect peoples’ feelings, but the city is not thinking about legal immigrants,” said Zhenya Li, a founding member of the Maryland Chinese American Network. “Many of us spent years going through the legal immigration process and viewed coming to the United States as a privilege. Unlike in China, here we thought the rule of law superseded all. Unfortunately, as we see now, that is not always the case.” With a doctorate degree in biochemistry and molecular biology from Georgetown University, Li is the type of immigrant the United States should be clamoring to attract — not insulting with unfair treatment.
Sadly, I will not hold my breath. As is typical, the left-wing voices of Montgomery County retorted by spewing their ad hominem bile, with one Facebook commenter accusing the Chinese immigrants of being full of “hatred, anger, and lies.”
These immigrants are not hateful or racist. They are not bigoted or intolerant, and they certainly are not liars. Rather, they embody the American promise and are rightfully fed up with paying for the left’s tolerance of lawlessness.
Thomas Wheatley is a regular contributor to All Opinions Are Local. Follow him on Twitter @TNWheatley.