IHC Global Urban Feature: Migration & its Implications
Why Immigrants are Leaving Chicago
Immigrants are leaving Chicago, and creating a deficit in their wake that could be a lesson to learn for other immigrant-heavy cities. Cook County, which encompasses Chicago and its surrounding areas, suffered its first net population loss in decades in 2015, losing a staggering 11,324 residents. 2016 didn't fare better; the population loss skyrocketed to a whopping 19,570.
Why is this happening?
Among other reasons, fewer immigrants are moving to the city, and the ones that already live there often cannot afford to stay. The city has failed to invest in neighborhoods of color, and with low rates of affordable housing and the U.S. Administration's crackdown on both legal and illegal immigration, the population is on track to decline further. Since its inception, Chicago has "depended on immigration to offset the sluggish growth of its native-born population." When restrictive immigration policies were put into place in the 19th century, the population took a significant hit, but when the laws changed in 1965 and a huge, diverse wave of immigrants ushered in, the population exploded. In 2017, the potential population decline may bring more economic woes to the already struggling city.
Immigration is a hot-bed topic on the global and national stage, and has been depicted in the media as a security issue, a discriminatory issue, and a human rights issue, among other things. But as much of the attention has been focused on the negative implications of immigration, the positive impact that it has had- namely in cities- has been greatly minimized. As in the case of Chicago, immigration can stimulate an economy, bring in new brainpower and create vibrant urban cultures. Chicago is not an outlier; losing the steady population influx and the benefits it brings could have devastating ramifications to all cities.
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