Several readers of this blog have asked me why I spend any time at all talking about an issue like immigration. After all, I’m the mayor of an inland city about as far away from an international border as you can get. Others disagree with my statements.
Here’s why I choose to speak out, and why I say what I do.
As you listen to the debate on immigration, it is important to realize how big a stake our City has in the outcome. We are, historically, a city of immigrants. My father is a first generation American.
Even though the City lost population in the 1980s and 90s, things would have been far worse had those losses not been offset by the numbers of Bosnian, Hispanic, and Vietnamese immigrants who moved here during the same time. A decade later, their contributions are already evident: rebuilt neighborhoods, new businesses, and new traditions that add to our diversity.
I believe, in fact, that the jobs, taxes, and energy brought to the City in the 90’s by immigrants were some of the foundations of the renaissance we are seeing in the 21st century. And immigration remains an important element of our growing urban vitality.
People come to this country seeking a better life for themselves. In fact, they end up making life better for all of us. That must continue.
So, if it comes to drawing lines, put me firmly on the side of immigrants.
Like most mayors of diverse cities, I strongly believe that the only fair and effective way to address real immigration issues is nationally, not locally. And I believe that real national reform requires family unity, worker protections, strengthened human rights and civil liberties for all Americans, and a path to legalization for undocumented immigrants.
That’s why I talk about immigration issues and why I supported a resolution at a recent meeting of the US Conference of Mayors calling for comprehensive federal immigration reform that included these elements. To signal the urgency of that resolution, I invited members of the St. Louis community who support that resolution to come to City Hall yesteday to join me in signing a personal pledge to work for just and humane immigration reform.