Kashmeri: Immigrant Friendly

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(Host) Commentator Sarwar Kashmeri thinks that the anti-immigration
sentiment in many parts of the country may offer a golden opportunity to
jump-start Vermont’s economy and reverse our population decline.

Vermont’s economy needs a shot in the arm. A small and aging
population, scarcity of jobs, and the recent devastation by hurricane
Irene have left Vermont with declining options to reverse its economic
trajectory. Gradual improvements, even if these are possible, will not
do much to help the state. What we need is a bold, out of the box
strategy to reverse this trend. Here’s my thought.

I’d like to
see us defy the national trend, and make Vermont a magnet for
immigrants. As Georgia, Alabama, Arizona, and others pass laws that turn
their states into anti-immigrant territories, we should enact a bold
campaign to do the opposite. We could buy billboard space on every
highway leading out of immigrant unfriendly States to announce that
Vermont welcomes immigrants.

If you believe that an influx of
immigrants wouldn’t be good for Vermont’s economy, I’d invite you to
look at their impact on NY City.

A recently article in the NY
Times pointed out that immigrants own nearly half of all the small
businesses in the Big Apple, even though they only make up a third of
the city’s population. Small businesses create over 80% of all new jobs
in America, so this statistic by itself explains much of New York City’s
perpetual resiliency, vibrancy and excitement.

dominating business sectors such as transportation, construction, and
manufacturing, immigrants in the Big Apple are also big players in the
high-tech businesses that Vermont wants to attract – including computer
systems, architectural, and engineering design services. Vermont’s
farming sector of course already relies on immigrants to keep it

If you think this strategy does not suit a small New
England state, guess again! Rhode Island has already tacked in this
direction. The Boston Globe reports that Governor Chafee has set a mean
pace to make Rhode Island an immigrant friendly state: He has demolished
the E-verify system for checking workers’ status, led a successful
campaign to grant in-state tuition to unauthorized immigrants, and has
begun to study the impact of letting them have driver’s licenses.

say we double Rhode Island’s stakes to encourage immigrants to pick
Vermont as their destination of choice. Let’s do everything that RI does
and then some. How about a Vermont version of the 19 th century Federal
land grants program for example?

Governor Shumlin is doing a
good job of managing Vermont’s recovery from hurricane Irene. But that
will only return the State to its economic and population status quo.
Vermont needs a long term plan to ratchet up the state’s economy. I
think we should learn from Rhode Island and NY – open Vermont’s borders
to all immigrants.

What’s to lose but an economy that’s stuck in the sand and a population that is declining in productivity by the year.

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