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Mayor Pushes Global Effort Forward Despite Trump Immigration Concerns

Donald Trump’s aggressive anti-immigration stance is not thwarting a new economic directive being pushed by city officials.

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, along with the area’s chamber of commerce, is looking to a steady flow of immigrants to fuel the city’s economic vitality.

The city’s foreign-born population is projected to nearly double in the next decade, according to a report from the Kentucky State Data Center. And by 2040, foreign-born residents will make up nearly a fifth of Louisville's population.

In fact, the immigration of foreign-born residents far outpaces that of domestic-born residents, according to the U.S. Census American Community Survey.

Fischer is banking on these residents to help fill some 29,000 open jobs across the region and this month he unveiled an action plan focused on attracting and assimilating immigrants in the area.

While Trump is expected to usher in policies focused on reducing the country’s population of foreign-born residents, Fischer said the president-elect's policies won't match his rhetoric, saying his words are “much more intense than what reality is going to be.”

“There’s economic consequences to affecting what it is that he talked about, and I think he is beginning to realize that,” Fischer said at a press conference last week at which he announced the city’s global initiative.

Fischer has recognized "there is a lot of fear" about the unknowns in immigration policy that may come with a Trump presidency.

Deportation Concerns

Fears of deportations and the breaking up of families stirred in June, after the U.S. Supreme Court deadlocked in a 4-4 decision effectively blocking President Obama’s plan to expand a deportation deferment program.

Edgardo Mansilla is executive director of the Americana Community Center, which provides an array of support services for refugees and immigrants entering Louisville.

In an interview this summer, he said hundreds of Louisville families have already been split by deportation. A large number of undocumented immigrants in the area are from Latin American countries, he said, but many come from India, China, Korea, Ireland, Israel and Canada as well, he said.

“It’s a number of countries, not just one,” Mansilla said.

On the campaign trail in August, Trump said his administration would restore controversial programs aimed at reducing immigrant populations in the United States.

One such program, known as 287(g), allows local law enforcement entities to partner with federal agencies to carry out immigration enforcement within their jurisdictions.

The program is in place in 32 law enforcement agencies in 16 states — none in Kentucky — and is credited with identifying more than 402,000 "potentially removable aliens, mostly at local jails," according to the federal agency's website.

Fischer has repeatedly stressed that Louisville Metro Police "is not an immigration enforcement agency."

"We are not going to be participating in any mass deportation," he said.

The mayor added that putting more burden on police to do added duty isn't feasible.

"The police forces of the cities of America do not have the resources to do much more than we're doing right now," he said, noting the city's surging violence. "We need to be all hands on deck on that."

In the meantime, Fischer said he'll continue to push a welcoming message to immigrants. He's met with various immigrant groups across the city since the presidential election to spread that message.

"We're a global city here and we are going to become an increasingly global city," he said. "And we rely on all people to have a strong workforce, just as the rest of the country does."

Jacob Ryan is the managing editor of the Kentucky Center for Investigative reporting. He's an award-winning investigative reporter who joined LPM in 2014. Email Jacob at jryan@lpm.org.