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Missouri's Immigrant Population Dwindling, Says Panel

Categories: Community

Joan Suarez of Missouri Immigrant & Refugee Advocates; immigration-rigths attorney Pari Sheth, Kim Allen Murray of Legal Services of Eastern Missouri, and former Gov. Bob Holden.
​The state of Missouri and the St. Louis region are shedding its once robust percentages of immigrants, and if nothing is done to stop the trend it will get worse, according to a panel of experts who gathered last night at the Old Post Office downtown to discuss the economic benefits of immigration.

In 1850, 50 percent of the St. Louis population was composed of immigrants, but by 1920, that number had dwindled to 13 percent. The rate dipped as low as 2.5 percent in 1970 before beginning to rise again. With an immigration rate currently between 6 and 7 percent, the St. Louis region is still well below the national average of about 13 percent, according to Anna Peterson Crosslin, president and CEO of the International Institute of St. Louis and moderator of the panel. And, once again, that percentage is beginning to decline, she said.

What's the reason for the drop? The panelists blamed xenophobic bills in Jefferson City, a state-wide constituency that's too old and white to relate to multiculturalism, and a dearth of jobs in St. Louis.

Former Missouri governor Bob Holden, who sat on the panel, claimed that immigrants start small businesses and land engineering jobs at higher rates than non-immigrants, but that's not happening in Missouri. For a one-time government cheerleader, Holden was down on his state last night.

"We're not as accepting of diverse lifestyles," he said. "We've got to realize that immigrants add value to our culture; they're not a detriment." He added: "Missouri is losing its bellwether status. We lost it in 2008 because of the decreasing percentage of immigrant population here."

The panelists spent significant time pillorying some of the bills being proposed in Jefferson City, including bills that would require legal immigrants to carry a specially stamped license, eliminate driver's exams in foreign languages, and outlaw Sharia law in the state.

On his blog last week, Mayor Francis Slay chimed in: "Immigration has long been the life-force of America's cities, just as cities have been the economic engines of their regions and states. Smart states encourage it. Missouri? No"

Closer to home, the St. Louis region ranks 60th in immigrant population among the country's major metro regions, according to Crosslin. The underlying explanation, the panelists agreed, was a lack of economic opportunity. It might be a chicken-and-egg conundrum, but it's clear that cities that attract business also attract immigrants.

"We're one of the bottom 10 states in the nation when it comes to our number of undocumented workers," explained Crosslin. "It's because they're smart -- they go to where the jobs are."

Holden suggested St. Louis has a branding problem. Compare Chicago's O'Hare Airport, which displays welcoming flags from various countries, with Lambert Airport, where there are none, he said. St. Louis has no flags on its highways, international-sister city partnerships or any public messaging that says to immigrants "we welcome you," Holden said.

The panel was composed of Holden; Kim Allen Murray, with the Immigration Law Project of Legal Services of Eastern Missouri; Joan Suarez, chair of Missouri Immigrant & Refugee Advocates; Reena Hajat Carroll, executive director of Diversity Awareness Partnership; and Pari Sheth, an attorney specializing in immigrant rights.



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6 comments
Freedom1958
Freedom1958

I may be dense, but could somebody please explain to me why diversity, for its own sake, is a good thing?What great works owe their existence to diversity? Haven't most of the great works of mankind been accomplished by a common people with common goals?It would seem to me that all diversity accomplishes is to throw sand into the gearbox of life. It is turning our nation into a modern day tower of babel.What's the benefit of that?

Baal Labs
Baal Labs

The issue is very simple: Destroying American families by replacing American workers with Cheap Foreign Labor.

Half the workers in the world live on two dollars a day or less, and they live because their cost of living is much lower than ours. Rich Republican corporations have discovered they can pay foreign workers a fraction of what they would pay ours, and still sell to us for the same old price, and take all the difference in CEO and executive salaries and bonuses. Until we can compete by having our own wages drop to two dollars a day....

And Democratic politicians can get tons or corporate cash by being Republicans and working for the rich instead of for the people who elected them.

It has absolutely nothing to do with the lies about zenophobia vs multiculturalism. And you can prove it. Next time telll them they are welcome to replace every single American with an immigrant from some other culture...except...they have to get the American and the immigrant to switch, and their wages have to be the same to stop lowering American wages by replacing Americans with Cheap Foreign Labor. And you will quickly discover they were lying. It's all about the money. The corporate magnates want ours. For themselves. And they can buy and sell Democratic politicians just as easily as Republican ones.

(Ugly little secret: Why do the suggestions of these purported "Liberals" always result in displacing Blacks from their jobs and replacing them with immigrants whose skin color is several shades lighter?)

Talia1
Talia1

We're one of the bottom 10 states in the nation when it comes to our number of undocumented workers," explained Crosslin. "GOOD! We want DOCUMENTED workers, you IDIOT!

Wolfgrogan
Wolfgrogan

St. Louis does in fact have fourteen sister cities

– Bologna, Italy – Bogor, Indonesia – Donegal, Co. Donegal, Ireland – Galway, Co. Galway, Ireland – Georgetown, Guyana – Lyon, France – Nanjing, China – Saint-Louis, Senegal – Samara, Russia – San Luis Potosí, Mexico – Stuttgart, Germany – Suwa, Japan – Szczecin, Poland – Wuhan, China I have lived here all my life and can tell you that I like it better thanall the other cities who's songs you sing so highly.

Why demand that English be our Common Language? --- well howelse do you make our National Dictum a reality ?

E Pluribus Unum

This Panel sound more like a bunch of Democrats looking to findsome easy votes.

Anna Crosslin
Anna Crosslin

Sorry Talia you miss my point since presentation review was truncated to fit the publication requirements. The sentence following this one would have suggested therefore that the state legislature spend less time on what is essentially a non-material issue (ferreting out illegals to toss them out) and more time figuring out how to actually attract more immigrants to our communities. Like it or not Missourians need to start thinking of immigrants as partners in finding economic solutions. And it isn't a Democratic OR Republican issue per se.

USAmerican100
USAmerican100

Why do you think Americans are so incompetent and hapless they cannot "find economic solutions"? Especially since the problem is Globalization which has lowered the US standard of living down toward the world average. Seems to me the solution is Nationalism, which means Americans first and foremost.

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