(Photo by Flickr user Frank Roche, used under a Creative Commons license)
The national conversation about immigration has been frayed by some heated, controversial election rhetoric. It’s a distraction from some of the facts about contributions immigrants make to local economies — especially in Philadelphia.
Here, according to the Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians, immigrants make up 10 percent of the city’s workforce and are responsible for 75 percent of workforce growth since 2000. Additionally, immigrants are credited with 96 percent of business ownership growth along the city’s commercial corridors.
The city is a leader in developing economic opportunities for immigrant populations. It’s why Philadelphia was chosen to host fourth annual Welcoming Economies Global Network Convening, happening now through Oct. 21. Over 350 national leaders in developing economic opportunities for immigrants are here for the convening, touring the city’s commercial corridors and meeting with immigrant business owners.
"It's become critical to the conversation about the future direction of our country.'"
Welcoming Center President and CEO Peter Gonzales actually delivered the keynote at the very first convening four years ago in Detroit. The Midwest was looking for ways to grow economic opportunity for immigrant populations, and all eyes were on the Welcoming Center.
“It’s become critical to the conversation about the future direction of our country, and to tie it to a micro-community in Philadelphia is really powerful. It motivates people to continue working in this field, to see the relevance and connection that they’re not alone,” said Gonzales.
The conversation, he said, is just as relevant in South Philly as it is in Northeast Detroit. There are challenges in making sure immigrants have access to all the things a citizen does — public safety, government services, access to education, financial systems and healthcare.
Immigrants aren’t coming to the U.S. with no skills, said Gonzales. There’s “great opportunity” in helping them connect to the industries they have experience in and “fill gaps in the workforce.”
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Gonzales said it’s “critical” for people to know that what’s good for the immigrant community is “really good” for the community at large.
That’s not something you’ll hear in a presidential debate.