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Editorial: Buffalo relies on immigration

President Trump has an ill-conceived plan for “Dreamers,” residents who were illegally brought to this country when they were children. It calls for upward of 1.8 million to be able to stay, become citizens and continued their lives right here. That’s the hopeful part.

But then it exacts a crippling cost by vastly limiting the number of legal immigrants who can come here. And if previous statements about certain countries are any indication, those legal entrants would come from a select group.

Trump has been determined to end an Obama-era program that offered legal protection to an estimated 800,000 of those residents. Senate Democrats forced a brief government shutdown over the matter and have joined the issue with the passage of government funding legislation. That deadline is this Thursday.

The president’s plan offers a path to citizenship to people already enrolled in the Obama-era program, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA. It also offers a path to citizenship for young immigrants who did not sign up for that program.

Then it offers the largest cutback in legal immigration “in generations.” As Jerry Zremski, this newspaper’s Washington bureau chief wrote, Buffalo's population has benefited because of immigrants.

Consider that the Metro areas foreign-born population grew 32.3 percent from 2000 through 2014, according to Census figures. New American Economy, a pro-immigration group, cited the “influx of more than 15,000 immigrants,” which meant the region’s population fell only 3.3 percent between those years. The Buffalo area’s population would otherwise have fallen 4.7 percent.

The revitalization of Buffalo’s far West Side and Black Rock/Riverside neighborhoods might never have happened. There is measurable job and business growth which beat the county average in recent years.

Trump’s policies on immigration have hurt this area already. The reduction of refugee admissions reduced the number headed to Buffalo by two-thirds between 2016 and 2017. Various forms of legal immigration would be reduced by about 288,000 people a year nationwide, or 36 percent, according to the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute.

That’s not to speak of what is referred to as “chain migration.” Trump wants to put a stop to it. Legal immigrants would only be able to bring spouses and minor children to this country. No parents. No one else in the family.
Immigrants helped Buffalo and the nation to flourish.

David Dyssegaard Kallick, director of the Fiscal Policy Institute’s Immigration Research Initiative and Eva Hassett, executive director of the International Institute of Buffalo, co-authored an Another Voice piece in the News last year. In it, they cited Buffalo’s population decline and that immigrants and refugees are “already reversing population loss.”

The same refugees, the ones in question, that need support getting established eventually do well. Moreover, the industries Buffalo is setting its sights upon require a young workforce. A column in The News’ Prospectus section by David Robinson discussed the wave of big investments, including the Buffalo Billion (Tesla solar factory in South Buffalo) to the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.

And what about the shrinking workforce? Businesses complain about how it is difficult to find qualified new workers, especially in skilled trades. Baby boomers are retiring. State training programs are rushing to fill the gap but also find it challenging to convince parents that their children should go into manufacturing.

Think strategically. Ohio’s Republican Gov. John Kasich issued a public invitation on “CBS This Morning,” inviting these at-risk immigrants to his state. In New York, the Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees is establishing the “One World Welcome and Opportunity Center” in Utica. The effort should be replicated in every upstate city.

Immigrants drive population and workforce growth. They start with nothing and work hard, buy homes and start businesses. They are key to Buffalo’s future and to that of the nation. They always have and will continue to embody the American dream.

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