Friday, September 28, 2007

Immigrants Help Our Economy? Who Knew???

Ken Belson and Jill Capuzzo's story about Riverside, New Jersey rethinking its anti-immigrant ordinance made me laugh.

Like other towns across the nation, Riverside is figuring out that masses of hard-working immigrants local economies grow. They help small towns revitalize. They are good citizens and contribute positively to American life.

But of course these people were also brown and spoke a funny language so it was worth it, or so says former mayor Charles Hilton. “The business district is fairly vacant now, but it’s not the legitimate businesses that are gone,” he said. “It’s all the ones that were supporting the illegal immigrants, or, as I like to call them, the criminal aliens.”

Yes, such as grocery stores, restaurants, music shops, stores that sell phone cards to call back to Mexico, and other horrible businesses that only bring money into communities. I suppose if you equate "legitimate" and "white," then maybe Hilton has a point.

I can only imagine what would happen if my home town of Springfield, Oregon passed one of these ordinances. They entire time I was growing up, downtown was dying. No one went down there for any reason. There were a few old crappy restaurants, a bar or two, some thrift stores, and a lot of vacant buildings. Beginning in the early 1990s, Spanish-speaking immigrants began filtering into town. Today, downtown is way more hopping than it used to be. There are really good Mexican restaurants, stores catering to Mexican consumers, including a music store, and other shops owned by immigrants. Downtown Springfield no longer sucks. How comfortable local residents are with the area's first ever large non-white population is hard for me to say, but I'd far rather live in the Springfield of 2007 than the Springfield of 1992.