Instead of grumbling about immigration issues or dwelling on the myths, several large cities in the eastern United States and Canada are attempting to capitalize on the numerous benefits that immigration can bring as a way to enhance community revitalization and restart economic growth. Specific initiatives are currently underway in Baltimore, Boston, Cleveland, Detroit, Minneapolis, and Philadelphia in the United States and in Halifax and Toronto, Canada to attract and welcome immigrants from around the world.
When new immigrants arrive and settle in a particular neighborhood, subsequent waves from the same nation tend to settle in the same areas to be close to fellow immigrants from their home country. Decaying or troubled cities provide new opportunities at lower costs, whether it be the purchase of an abandoned home or a boarded up business site.
Immigration is not a continuous nightmare as is so often depicted by conservative xenophobes. The arrival of new immigrants can often lead to many positive outcomes, including:
Increase property values – the influx of new residents to blighted and abandoned areas helps raise the property values due to the increased demand, renovated housing stock, property maintenance, and new construction.
Build population growth and/or stability – it is estimated that immigration will account for two-thirds of population growth in the United States over the next century. Without immigration, many older cities would see population declines.
Revitalize abandoned commercial-retail areas – nothing is quite as depressing from a community appearance perspective as seeing abandoned and dilapidated structures decaying by the moment. Immigrant entrepreneurs fill empty commercial and retail spaces with businesses, stores, and restaurants.
Improve the richness and vibrancy of the community – this goes hand in hand with diversifying the community. The arrival of new forms/styles of art, music, cuisine, fashion, products, goods, and ideas can create new trends and spark innovation and inspiration.
Stem crime in urban neighborhoods – re-occupying and maintaining abandoned areas puts more eyes and ears in the community to lend assistance to public safety forces,
Diversify the community – the arrival of immigrants from around the world not only enhances the multi-cultural mix of the community, but it also exposes existing residents to new cultures, faiths, cuisines, languages, and ideas. Any opportunity to learn more about each other is beneficial to peace and understanding.
To Michiganders, Detroit has long been known for the diversity found in ethnically-rich neighborhoods and abutting enclaves like Greektown, Mexicantown, Hamtramck, and Dearborn. Some of these areas in Greater Detroit have been so successful, they not only attract in-state residents, but also tourists. Efforts such as the Global Detroit Initiative are working with these existing success stories, while also seeking to attract new immigrants to revitalize other parts of the community.
This type of initiative is certainly a welcome change from the ruckus and rancor heard so often about immigration. Unless you are a Native American, you are the descendant of an immigrant. So let’s dispel the myths, stop acting so arrogant, and start celebrating our nation’s rich, vibrant, and growing diversity.
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