I am among those many Americans who believe that this country needs more immigrants, not less. (See this column and this column and this column.) I recommend to you therefore a stimulating essay on immigration policies being discussed in Washington as they pertain to Illinois, written by Sara McElmurry, assistant director of immigration at the Chicago Council of Global Affairs, and Rob Paral, author of Looking Back to Look Forward: Lessons From the Immigration Histories of Midwestern Cities and published in Crain’s Chicago Business.
As always, if you want to understand today’s issues, you have to know a little about yesterday.
Our modern immigration system—built in 1965— reversed the 1920s-era restrictions, offering a lifeline for the stagnating Midwest. The 1965 law created new avenues for family-based migration that ushered newcomers back to Midwestern cities, resulting in a collective 45 percent growth of foreign-born residents since 1990.
These new Midwesterners hail mostly from Asia and Latin America, with skill sets as diverse as their backgrounds. Immigrants are revitalizing shrinking cities like Chicago, which has lost nearly 30 percent of its native-born population since 1970 and currently leads the nation in population decline. The city's foreign-born population is up 53 percent over its 1970 numbers, buffering the city from all-out decline.