By Akindele Akinyemi, M.A.
Recently, President Donald Trump ended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. This was an Obama-era executive action that shields young undocumented immigrants from deportation. In addition, he has given our U.S. Congress six months to come up with a solution for this issue to move the process forward.
Once again, we have a nation that is gripped in fear. There was no real reason to end DACA other than silly political pandering. However, what people do not understand is the fact that many immigrants who went through the program are the real key for future entrepreneurship to fuel investment in urban communities both here and abroad to connect themselves to the global market economically.
For example, when we look at new young immigrants from other parts of the African and Caribbean Diaspora they are a growing component of the U.S. population. They are part of the racial and ethnic transformation of the United States in the 21st century. Although far outnumbered by non-black Hispanic and Asian immigrants, the number of Black immigrants is growing at a remarkable rate. Economic and political forces brought these immigrants to the United States from Africa, the Caribbean, and some Latin American countries. They come to the United States seeking educational opportunities, jobs, and sometimes individual safety. U.S. immigration laws enacted over the last few decades have opened new avenues for Black immigrants, especially from Africa. U.S. laws favoring immigrant family reunification have played a particularly important role in immigration from nearby Caribbean countries.
As the immigration issue heats up stakeholders who support DACA will acknowledge the need for immigrants to help revitalize urban communities. However, we must provide a framework and core strategy that includes acknowledging that young immigrants are essential to urban population growth and stability as well as providing neighborhood revitalization benefits. In addition, these young immigrants can play a crucial role in rejuvenating neighborhood commercial retail districts that might otherwise succumb to blight or abandon. Also, these immigrant populations will help to stabilize residential neighborhoods, revitalize commercial retail corridors, bringing a diversity of culture, food, language, goods, and services, all of which help decrease blight, decay, and abandonment, increase job creation, employment, and property values, improve neighborhood quality of life, and foster a greater vibrancy and richness for the urban experience throughout a city.
Stakeholders must work on strategies to attract talent to urban communities, retain university graduates, improve pathways for small business investment, and connect immigrant business investors with local economic development. Local, county, state and federal lawmakers must realize that nothing is more powerful as recreating urban cores that have been “gutted” by negative public policy that has created a lack of innovation. Immigration would continue to foster entrepreneurship and population growth.
Jobs are disappearing, but there’s still a future for work. As we move towards a STEM-based society it will be important for us to understand how immigration and urban communities play a vital role in redeveloping the workforce. We need to watch how automation and information technology are changing the economic landscape and forcing workers to forge new career paths beyond outdated ideas about permanent employment. Economists have long been following the impacts of automation on jobs—not just in manufacturing, but also increasingly in white-collar work.
Akindele Akinyemi, M.A. is the National Co-Director of the National African Business Association. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org