Monday, May 17, 2010

Cincinnati Ohio needs Immigrants

Business Courier of Cincinnati - by Doug Bolton Publisher

Arizona, Greater Cincinnati will take the 100,000 immigrants you’ve chased away since 2007. And we’ll take the immigrants you’re going to chase away as a result of your state’s approval of legislation that gives police the ability to stop citizens and ask them for verification of their citizenship.

But we’ll need to export to you at least two Butler County elected officials who choose to live in a previous century.

The legislation may be right for a border state frustrated by weak federal enforcement of immigration laws. The Arizona legislation may just be a bargaining chip to make progress on that front.

But in the meantime, embracing immigrants could be one way Greater Cincinnati climbs out of the deep hole created by the Great Recession.

Recent studies of census data show that continuous waves of immigrants are part of what make cities and regions thrive.

“Roughly 25 percent of successful high-tech startups over the last decade were founded or co-founded by immigrants,” says Robert Litan, who directs research at the Kauffman Foundation, which specializes in promoting innovation in America.

Others have observed that those who are willing to leave their home countries are inherent risk-takers, a quality that can often make them successful entrepreneurs.

Around 3 percent of Greater Cincinnati’s population is foreign-born. That compares to an average of 20 percent foreign-born for the U.S.’s top 25 metros. So we have a ways to go to catch up.

To communicate a pro-immigration message and to start to strategize on how to better attract immigrants, local leaders have organized an event May 18 from 8:30-10 a.m. at the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber to discuss the immigration issue.

On the agenda: Stories from recent immigrants; historical perspective from Leadership Cincinnati’s Dan Hurley; analysis of the economic impact of immigrants from Benjamin Passty, director of the University of Cincinnati’s Applied Economics Research Institute; and current perspectives from Leonel Calderon, director of Northern Kentucky University’s Latino Student Affairs. The event is free, but reservations to are appreciated.

But we first must stop the anti-immigration antics of Butler County Sheriff Rick Jones and Ohio Rep. Courtney Combs, R-Ross Township. In the wake of the Arizona legislation, both have asked Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland to prepare similar legislation. Fortunately, Strickland has said no. I’m surprised by Combs’ take on this issue, but this is more of the same from Jones. I bet Arizona has plenty of work for Jones to put in for a transfer.

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