Irish should commit to strong pro-immigrant stance, says Philly mayor


'Diversity is our strength,' Philadelphia mayor Jim Kenney told an audience of Irish-American business leaders, encouraging the group to embrace and welcome immigrants to their city, and to America at large.

At a time when Trump is seeking to sow seeds of intolerance and racial animosity, Philadelphia mayor Jim Kenney encouraged a largely Irish-American audience to reject hatred and embrace America's newest immigrants.

After all, Irish need only look back at their own immigrant history to see the kind of ugly behavior that shouldn't be replicated.

"'No Irish Need Apply' and 'Go Back to Where You Came From,' all those things that were said to us, I’d hate to have them repeated in Philadelphia today," Kenney told the Irish Small Business-Big Impact 50 Awards, according to the Irish Echo.

Kenney urged the audience to "be a welcoming city and a welcoming country to people from around the world," reminding them that "diversity is our strength."

Kenney also alluded to anti-immigrant violence in the past as a warning about nationalist attitudes.

In 1844, riots against Irish Catholics led to dozens of people dying and two Catholic churches being burned to the ground. According to Philadelphia magazine, the riots were led by a group "known as 'nativists' because they favored the rights of those born here over those of immigrants."

Kenney noted that change is always possible if people commit to it.

"If we continue as immigrants and as the descendants of immigrants to explain the importance of diversity and of immigration to our country and progress, I think we will make some headway," Kenney said.

Just as Irish immigrants contributed to America's past, current immigrants are making huge contributions to America today. Pennsylvania is home to more than 700,000 immigrants, and immigrant-led households in Pennsylvania earned $25.8 billion dollars in 2014, according to a recent study. That means that one in every $14 of state and local tax revenue was from an immigrant-led household. 

And immigrants are not just employees. In Pennsylvania, immigrant-owned businesses generated $1.2B in business income in 2014. More than 143,000 Pennsylvanians are employed at firms owned by immigrants. 

Yet with all that immigrants are contributing to Pennsylvania and America, the Trump administration regularly demeans and insults the immigrant community.

Trump began his campaign by calling Mexicans "rapists," and continues to stand by that statement. His newest immigration plan involves ripping children out of the arms of their parents, despite the fact that the administration has lost track of nearly 1,500 children they separated from their parents.

Looking to history, Kenney offers a more compassionate, more American way to treat immigrants.

"As hyphenated Americans, Italian-American, Irish American, Polish-American, Jewish-American, all of us came from somewhere else," Kenney said.

"Columbus didn’t discover America — it was already discovered," he pointed out.

"We have set our roots here, and because of many of our religious beliefs we have to be welcoming to people and give people an opportunity," Kenney said. After all, he added, "At some point, they will be sitting where you are sitting now."