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Emanuel Wants to Make Chicago "The Most Immigrant-Friendly City in the World"

By Chris Bentley in News on Jul 10, 2012 9:00PM

A certain New York Times travel piece reminded us the Midwest is known nationwide for its genial, hospitable folk. Now Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s Welcoming City Ordinance aims to make Chicago “the most immigrant-friendly city in the world.”

Adolfo Hernandez will head up that effort as director of the Mayor’s brand new Office of New Americans. Hernandez, a second-generation immigrant who grew up in Little Village, told Chicago Tonight he will take city hall on a “road show” through Chicago’s ethnic communities to provide support for entrepreneurs.

The city’s proposals include protections for undocumented immigrants without criminal records. Police will be instructed not to question “law-abiding residents” about their immigration status. Beyond that the proposal remains somewhat vague.

It does sound a bit like a Chicago version of the DREAM act. Emanuel has advocated immigration reform legislation at the state and federal level since becoming Mayor, but he previously drew criticism from immigration reform groups for side-stepping the issue when he was White House Chief of Staff.

In 1870, immigrants made up a larger proportion of Chicago's population than any other place in North America. Of course, demographics have changed. According to 2010 figures from the U.S. Census Bureau, more than half of the country’s foreign-born population now live in just four states: California, New York, Texas and Florida. Illinois had 4.4 percent of the total foreign-born population, the sixth highest proportion in the country. But that, too, could change. As crackdowns on illegal immigration gain traction elsewhere in the country, immigrants in Arizona and Alabama may continue to seek greener pastures.