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Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Are Immigrants the Solution to Cleveland Population Problems?

Posted By on Wed, Jun 2, 2010 at 12:14 PM

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Back in the day, when there were steel mills aplenty and busy docks to be worked, this city was a destination of sorts for hardworking immigrants. Good work, safe streets, good pay, a decent house — these were reason enough to move to the shores of Lake Erie.

It seems everyone has a Polish or Slovenian or German or Hungarian grandparent that moved here, put down roots, worked an industrial job and raised their family here. And maybe we're just reminiscing, but Cleveland used to be a helluva immigrant town. At least the churches and restaurants and old neighborhoods make us think it used to be a helluva immigrant town.

But no more. Immigrants now make up just 5% of Cleveland's population. Whether it's migrating to the suburbs, like my Polish grandparents did to Parma, or the loss of jobs like the ones mentioned above, there's been a sharp decline in immigrants choosing to live and work in Cleveland.

Writing for New Geography, Michael Herman posits attracting immigrants as a possible solution to Cleveland's ongoing population loss. (He also wrote an similar editorial piece for the Plain Dealer.)

Even conservative estimates have us losing 10 percent of our population this decade, the fastest rate of decline of any major American city (except New Orleans). And still, remarkably, we hear no alarm bells from City Hall, no calls of urgency, just a commitment to stay the course and manage the decline.

While the extent of the exodus is debateable [sic] , it’s obvious that Cleveland, a city that once boasted 1 million residents, is not on the bright path to rebirth.

Maybe we don’t really understand the problem.

New York City and Chicago, like most major cities, see significant out-migration of their existing residents each year. What is atypical is that Cleveland does not enjoy the energy of new people moving in.

Put simply, the city needs the fresh optimism and pluck of new immigrants, the most likely source of New Clevelanders.

New immigrants are inherently mobile,and can move to Cleveland as part of secondary migration from New York City or other gateway cities.

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