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Baltimore to immigrants: Welcome in, no questions asked

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Baltimore, Md.'s population Baltimore's population has decreased by one-third since its peak in 1950.

Baltimore is trying to stem a population decline by putting out the welcome mat for immigrants.

Maryland’s "Charm City" is among a host of blue-collar U.S. municipalities that have established immigrant-friendly policies to try to reverse decades of population loss and jump-start job creation and economic growth, The Washington Post reports

The effort to attract foreigners is the opposite of actions by states like Arizona and Alabama, which have imposed strict anti-illegal immigration laws that have contributed to an exodus of immigrants.

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has told Latinos that they are critical to meeting her goal of reversing the city’s population decline. The city’s population peaked at 950,000 in 1950 and has been declining for decades. The most recent census estimates pegged its population at 650,000, the Post reported.

In March, Rawlings-Blake signed an order prohibiting police and social agencies from asking anyone about immigration status.  The order also says no city funds, resources, or personnel shall  be used to investigate or arrest people solely for a civil violation of federal immigration law. And it asks U.S. immigration agents to tell people they arrest that they are from the federal government, not the city.

Baltimore City Council

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake

The Post notes that several other cities, most of them manufacturing giants that have fallen on hard times, are pushing immigration-friendly policies to stem an outflow of residents:

The Global Detroit effort includes programs that help immigrants start small businesses, get driver’s licenses and learn English. As part of the Welcome Dayton Plan adopted last year, the Ohio city sponsors a soccer tournament for immigrant teams. Not to be outdone, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D) says he wants his home town to be known as the most “immigrant-friendly city in the country.”

“Immigrants have a lot to contribute to job creation and economic growth,” Steve Tobocman, a former Michigan House majority leader who heads Global Detroit, told the Post.

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Tobocman, whose grandfather emigrated from eastern Poland to southwest Detroit in the early 1900s to pursue the American Dream, wrote last year:

"No one strategy will, by itself, revitalize the Detroit regional economy. However, nothing is more powerful for remaking Detroit as a center of innovation, entrepreneurship and population growth, than embracing and increasing immigrant populations and the entrepreneurial culture and global connections that they bring and deliver."

Not everyone is on board with the welcome-immigrants approach.

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Maryland State Delegate Patrick L. McDonough, R-Baltimore County, said he is consulting with the conservative think-tank Judicial Watch about whether Rawlings-Blake is “aiding and abetting” people who are in the country illegally.

McDonough told the Post:

“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.”

You can read the full Post story here.

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