As debates over Arizona-style immigration laws, spread to state and local legislatures across the country, Mayor Rahm Emanuel restated his vision for Chicago's immigration policy.
At a roundtable with reporters at City Hall last week, Mr. Emanuel repeated his goal of making Chicago the most immigrant-friendly city in the United States. The Mayor was joined at the roundtable by Adolfo Hernandez, the director of the Office of New Americans (ONA), a recently-created agency tasked with helping immigrants participate in Chicago's civic, cultural and economic initiatives. Some of the ONA's responsibilities include helping immigrants overcome the language barrier, expanding opportunities for business owners and entrepreneurs and creating an Illinois DREAM Act to help the children of immigrants attend college.
Mr. Emanuel's stance on immigration is good politics and good economics. Chicago is a global commercial hub and will continue to be a popular destination for immigrants in the 21st century. Arizona and Alabama have both suffered economic damages due to the real and perceived injuries associated with their enforcement-through-attrition approaches to immigration.
Although Chicago is a long way from Alabama, intelligent policy should be applauded in today's political climate. According to a recent survey by Rasmussen, a right-leaning polling organization, more than 50 percent of Americans would favor an Arizona-style immigration law in their state. Reactionary politics are not confined to a specific geography.
Real Politik does not support illegal immigration and believes it is important for the United States to control its borders. But our nation must also acknowledge reality. Immigration is a federal issue and cannot be solved by piecemeal enforcement legislation at the city and state levels.
Until the federal government adopts a sensible solution to the problem - such as naturalizing illegal immigrants and punishing employers that take advantage of black market labor in the future - cities and states can choose to integrate immigrants into our societies or create a permanent underclass that feels physically and culturally alienated from the place they live.
It's nice to know that Chicago is moving in the right direction on this issue.
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