Welcoming Anaheim meeting AB feat

One of the the ideas floated at the most recent Welcoming Anaheim immigration task force meeting was creating an Office of Immigrant Integration within Anaheim city government.

During a discussion following a presentation by Rhonda Ortiz of USC’s Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration, task force member and progressive activist Julio Perez, the executive director of the Orange County Labor Federation, pointed out:

“One of the observations in terms of non-traditional forms, of even my thinking, I saw that immigrants tend to be more self-employed and entrepreneurial and wanting to own a home. So, even looking beyond just the racial justice thing that you and I and others here tend to look at, is if the city wants to promote business and entrepreneurial spirit etc, it makes better sense I imagine a dollar spent in an immigrant community yields more resources and more promotion than anything.”

“At the same time…being in the labor force, it was surprising to me that although on- third of the community in Orange County is immigrant, 41% is workers, right? So, the myth that immigrants come and take jobs…everybody’s working more here in Orange County and I imagine it’s throughout the state of California.”

“Those are some of the observations that I saw, especially, so I’m not just looking at it in terms of how we integrate it into a cultural arts festival but your permitting processes – is it welcoming to folks in every single set of the city?”

Mayor Tom Tait jumped on Perez’ last point, citing findings by the Kaufman Foundation that  that is “the best predictor of economic growth in a city is having a large immigrant community.” Tait continued:

“So, on Julio’s point, if we could harness that and make it super easy for an immigrant to open a business in Anaheim, so let people know they’re welcome, maybe something in our planning process, you mentioned that, kind of, you know, an Office of Immigrant Integration or a sign at the Planing Department, where we start really focusing on helping the immigrant.”

“And again sometimes people think it is a zero sum game where if an immigrant starts a business then someone else doesn’t start a business, but that’s not the way it works. That’s not the way economics works. It grows the whole pie. And everyone is better off, when an immigrant comes here and starts a business.”

This is an example of drawing the wrong conclusion from right ideas. Immigration is a net economic positive for the United States. They provide an infusion of fresh blood and the entrepreneurial instinct is, generally speaking, stronger among immigrants than  among they native-born. Immigrants tend to work harder and take more risks.

However, it’s quite a leap to go from immigrants-are-good-for-the-economy to creating separate services within city government especially for immigrant residents. Do Mayor Tait and Julio Perez propose a separate counter at the Planning Department for immigrants? Doesn’t it make more sense for the city to “make it super easy” for anyone to open a business in Anaheim, rather than allocating city resources for a separate effort aimed at a particular segment of the population?

It’s hard to miss the cognitive dissonance at work. The mayor and his allies criticize city policies they believe grant different or particular or favored treatment to one class of businesses or people and not others – unless they fall under the umbrella of a mayoral initiative like Brew City or now Welcoming Anaheim. In that case, special consideration is not only permissible but good economics.

Energetic entrepreneurs ought to be encouraged to open businesses in Anaheim – regardless of their immigration status. The city needn’t involve itself in the business of “immigrant integration.” Why create a city office grounded in identity politics when the free market is much better at quickly integrating immigrants. Indeed, injecting government and politics into the process retards, rather than accelerates, such integration.

Lastly, it should be noted that the Kaufman Foundation doesn’t share the open-borders politics of leftists like Perez and Councilman Jose F. Moreno. While it is squarely in the immigration-is-good-for-growth camp, the Kaufman Foundation favors designing immigration policy to bring in highly-skilled immigrants, such as the “startup visa” that “allow immigrant entrepreneurs to start businesses in the United States after satisfying certain funding, employment, or other requirements.”