A while back, I got into an unnecessary argument with some friends. This took place about two years ago. Arizona, or maybe it was Alabama, had just passed some extreme anti-immigrant laws.
The point my friends were making was that the overall atmosphere for immigrants was disappointingly hostile. I agreed, sure.
My point was simply that our area – we live in Maryland, near DC – was almost certainly among the best places in the country to be an immigrant. And that being the case, in a purely short-term and self-interested sense, these crazy laws in other states were probably a good thing for us (…now, hear me out).
Assuming that immigrants are aware that Maryland is a great place to be an immigrant – in terms of job opportunities, basic social supports, and a less hostile political atmosphere – they ought to increasingly come here and not go there (Alabama, or Arizona, or Georgia, or South Carolina, or wherever). And that’s a good thing because, in my experience, immigrants work hard and bring with them a host of talents, so our area would thrive while the anti-immigrants states would suffer from a lack of immigrants.
Well, this irritated the hell out of my friends. They like more prescriptive solutions to social problems, and my proposal to relax and let freedom-of-choice do its work probably struck them as at best glib, and at worst libertarian. My friends also enjoy being outraged, and I was suggesting that perhaps outrage wasn’t necessary, and that we might even feel a little pride that we live in a place so accomodating to immigrants.
Which I guess was too much for them. These are dear friends, and though we often stay up late drinking and arguing, and then forget all about it the next day, I heard from both of them – in the form of snide asides – on this matter again.*
*I mean stuff like, “Oh look, the Post has a story on a Guatemalan man hit by a car while crossing Georgia Avenue…one more way in which Maryland is just great for immigrants, I suppose.”
So, let me make the plainest case I can.
- When it comes to median household income among immigrants, Maryland is second only to our immediate neighbor to the south, Virginia, and immigrant household income is roughly the same as native-born households. Maryland is also second to Virginia in immigrant per person median income.
- Maryland has a decent social safety net, and it is extended to immigrants. As a result, Maryland is among the three states with lowest levels of immigrant children in-or-near poverty.
- Maryland is one of only 20 states that did NOT even introduce Arizona-style anti-immigrant legislation in 2012 (Arizona-style legislation appeared in the Virginia legislature, but was not passed).
No place is perfect, right, but in comparison to other states, it is hard to top Maryland as an immigrant friendly destination. That’s all I was saying.