Baltimore officials approved using $1.25 million to help turn a dilapidated former movie theater into a hub for CASA de Maryland.

As President Donald Trump digs in on his demand for a border wall to keep immigrants out of the country, Baltimore and other jurisdictions are taking the right stance by creating a welcoming environment for people from other countries.

The recent decision by the city’s Board of Estimates to spend $1.25 million to help the immigrant rights and social services organization CASA de Maryland expand into an old theater in East Baltimore was just the latest example of the city’s efforts to ensure that immigrants feel welcome. Once the theater on Pulaski Highway is renovated, CASA will be able to serve 11,000 people in an area of the city where more Latinos are planting roots.

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Baltimore approves $1.25 million to turn old movie theater into hub for growing Latino community

Baltimore officials have approved $1.25 million to help turn an old movie theater in East Baltimore into a hub for the city's growing Latino community.

The city has also allocated $200,000 to pay for lawyers to represent people facing federal deportation and backed alternative identification cards the Catholic Church would issue to immigrants who have attended their religious services. City attorneys have filed or joined lawsuits challenging various changes to federal immigration rules. Mayor Catherine Pugh applauded a decision by a United States district court judge last week who ruled the U.S. Census should not include a question about citizenship because people might avoid participating and make it hard to get accurate population counts.

Baltimore mayor: City is good for immigrants, and vice versa

Baltimore mayor: Immigration accelerates economic growth and does so in a way that benefits all of our workers, consumers and taxpayers whether you’re a newcomer or Baltimore born and bred.

Immigrants have come to represent a small but formidable part of the city, making up 10.2 percent of Baltimore’s population and in 2016 paying $3.4 billion in taxes in 2016, according to the group the New American Economy.

It’s smart to invest in immigrants. Unlike the picture the president likes to portray of a population that sucks up all of the country’s resources, immigrants contribute vitality and entrepreneurship to the economy, something Baltimore needs as it continues to watch its population decline.

Immigrants are twice as likely than those born in the United States to start their own businesses, according to The Kauffman Foundation. Google, Yahoo, Kraft Foods, Comcast. All founded by immigrants. The late Apple founder Steve Jobs was the son of a Syrian immigrant. Immigrants also help fill job voids. Studies have found they are more willing to relocate to where workers are needed. After all, they already have once.

Beyond the economy, immigrants make for culturally vibrant cities, exposing residents to food, music, art and traditions from all parts of the world and opening cultural centers and religious institutions that help shape neighborhoods. Parts of Fells Point has been transformed into an enclave of Latino restaurants, bodegas and other restaurants in recent years. Greek businesses have long been the economic engine in the Highlandtown neighborhood.

When students attend schools with people of different backgrounds, they become more tolerant and understanding of different cultures.

Pittman defends immigration policy decision at Glen Burnie town hall

Citing a chilling effect on crime reporting and redundancy in other federal programs, County Executive Steuart Pittman defended his decision to stop participating in a controversial immigration program Monday evening at the first of two town halls on the subject.

Baltimore is not the only jurisdiction providing a counter-example to President Trump’s rhetoric and policies. As one of his first acts as the new Anne Arundel County executive, Steuart Pittman pulled the county out of a program in which county detention officers essentially turned in illegal immigrants to federal ICE officers. Immigrant advocates rightfully said the program would hurt the relationship between immigrants and local law enforcement. The county has since gone back to its old way of doing things. Names of inmates are sent to ICE, which can screen for violations itself.

When cities and counties adopt programs and laws to support immigrants, like Baltimore and Anne Arundel County have done, the newcomers integrate more quickly and successfully, and cities reap the benefits.

Sadly, Mr. Trump doesn’t seem likely to change his stance on immigration anytime soon. He refuses to acknowledge the benefits of immigration even as his own businesses have employed people from other countries. His policies have targeted legal immigrants as much as those who enter without permission. His administration is granting fewer visas and accepting fewer refugees into the United States, and he has contemplated more drastic measures, like ending birthright citizenship.

As President Trump continues to portray immigrants as the boogeyman — and paralyzes the federal government in the process — local jurisdictions don’t have to sit on the sidelines as it happens. We encourage cities and counties to continue to follow Baltimore’s lead and adopt more policies to leverage what makes immigration good.

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