City to weigh immigrant-friendly policies

Recommendations part of mayor's pledge to expand population

September 17, 2014|By John Fritze | The Baltimore Sun

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake plans to unveil dozens of recommendations Wednesday intended to lure immigrant families to Baltimore and retain them.

The proposals, from increasing the availability of translators at city agencies to making it easier for the undocumented to buy homes, offer insight into the mayor's pledge to attract 10,000 new families over the next decade — an effort that is focused in part on the city's burgeoning immigrant neighborhoods.

"I want to make sure that Baltimore isn't behind the curve on this trend," said Rawlings-Blake, who will formally announce the recommendations today. "This is about taking advantage of the growth that we've already seen."

The proposals are part of a new report crafted by a city task force and the Abell Foundation.

Census data show that 46,000 people in Baltimore were born in another country, and 40 percent of them are naturalized citizens.

That represents a 55 percent increase in the number of people who identified themselves as immigrants in 2000. Most analysts believe those numbers significantly underrepresent the number of immigrants who entered the country illegally.

The task force suggests the city should approve an ordinance requiring agencies to develop policies that comply with federal regulations on "language access" to ensure that those who don't speak English can take advantage of city programs.

And noting that potential homebuyers who don't have Social Security numbers often struggle to obtain mortgages, the panel also recommends creating a committee to study programs that allow immigrants to borrow instead with a Tax ID Number issued by the Internal Revenue Service.

The task force provides few details about how some of the ideas would be implemented — or funded.

The panel, which describes the immigrants as "new Americans," does not draw a distinction between legal residents and those without documentation, though at least some of the recommendations would likely benefit both.

Brad Botwin, a Rockville resident who leads an advocacy group called Help Save Maryland, said that policy changes already underway in Baltimore catered to immigrants have robbed resources from current city residents.

"This is all targeted at people who have no moral or legal right to be here," Botwin said. "You're aiding and abetting people who shouldn't be here."

Congress has failed to address an immigration system that advocates and critics alike have described as broken.

In the absence of action, voters in Maryland backed a law in 2012 that grants in-state tuition to undocumented college students, and Gov. Martin O'Malley's administration has recently challenged some federal immigrant enforcement efforts.

john.fritze@baltsun.com

twitter.com/jfritze

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