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Breaking Down Mayor Fischer's Podcast: Immigration And 'Dreamers'

Mayor Greg Fischer
J. Tyler Franklin
Mayor Greg Fischer

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer has a podcast.

It's called The Mayor Greg Fischer Podcast and, to date, there are two episodes. They're about 20 minutes long and can be foundon Soundcloud.

The first episode was released two weeks ago in the wake of violent clashes between white supremacists and anti-racist protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, and fittingly, the topic was race, equality and Confederate monuments.

The second episode was released this week. In it, Fischer and host Graham Shelby, Fischer's speechwriter, discuss immigration.

Fischer often publicly stumps for immigration. He's held rallies in support of immigrants. And earlier this week, the mayor joined a coalition of hundreds of people from across the country to show support for people living in the U.S. who are at risk of deportation if President Trump cancels the Obama-era directive Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA.

DACA allows people who arrived in the U.S. illegally as children to live and work here without fear of deportation — they are often referred to as "Dreamers." But 10 state attorneys general have said they will sue the federal government if the program isn’t ended by September 5.

During the podcast, Fischer said he considers the directive not "as a President Obama, President Trump thing," but rather "a promise" to young immigrants living in the United States without proper documentation.

"If you're in the shadows, if you're here in our country — you're pursuing an education, you have a job, you have no serious criminal record — we want to make sure you have a pathway to citizenship," he said.

Rescinding that promise, Fischer said, would be unimaginable.

"That's not realistic, that's not in keeping with the values of our country either, and it's just not practical," he said.

There are about 5,000 so-called Dreamers living in Louisville, Fischer said. He said they are the type of people cities want.

"The best and brightest," he said. "The future of our country — high employment levels, high education levels, high entrepreneurship levels."

To date, DACA has provided protections for some 800,000 people, according to reports from The Washington Post, The New York Times and NPR. And a 2015 report from United We Dream — a pro-immigration group led by young immigrants — found that nearly 80 percent of DACA recipients are employed.

Fischer's Immigration Connection

Fischer, a Democrat, has been building his national profile in recent years. He was on POLITICO Magazine's listof "most interesting mayors." And after the violent clashes in Charlottesville, he made the rounds on national media outlets.

He's been mayor of Louisville since 2010 and has already announced he'll run again in 2018. And despite an unsuccessful bid for U.S. Senate in 2008, it's likely he'll try again.

A pro-immigration stance is a core tenet of the Democratic Party platform. According to the party's official website, "it is a defining aspect of the American character and our shared history.”

And while Fischer regularly echoes this in his public statements, his latest podcast pulls back the curtain on his personal connection to immigration.

Fischer said his wife, Alexandra Gerassimides, is the daughter of refugees who left Greece when the country was engulfed in civil war during the years following World War II. Some 50,000 people died and more than 500,000 people were temporarily displaced from their homes, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica.

Gerassimides' parents came to America with meager educational backgrounds and her father worked in an east Chicago steel mill. Fischer said his wife's parents never owned a vehicle during their time in the United States — choosing instead to invest in their children's education.

Gerassimides eventually became a pathologist.

"That is very much the story of immigration in America," Fischer said. "Who would not want people like this as part of our country?"

The Benefits of Immigration

Fischer often quips that he's an "entrepreneur that just happens to be Mayor" and he does again in his most recent podcast.

And it's through this business-lens that he views immigration.

"Any competitive city is going to be able to compete globally with its businesses," he said.

Bryan Warren, who leads the city's globalization efforts, also appears on this most recent podcast.

Asked by host Graham Shelby how Louisville benefits from having immigrants, Warren didn't hesitate in his answer.

"Population growth," he said.

Warren said cities across the country are struggling to grow their populations, especially with native born residents.

But Louisville's population is growing and a big reason for that is immigration, Warren said.

In fact, the city's office of globalization is part of the city's economic development wing. And a growing population brings more workforce and more opportunities for businesses to grow.

What's more, Warren said immigrants turn to entrepreneurship at "twice the rate of native born people."

Immigrants are also more likely to be in the "optimal work age range of 25 to 44," Warren said.

Ensuring these residents have the foundational support to contribute to the city's economy is imperative, he added.

That means focusing less on what Warren said are "politicized" debates, like so-called sanctuary status. Many residents in recent months have called for Louisville to become a so-called sanctuary city, but Fischer hasn't gone as far as proclaiming the status for Louisville. Instead, city officials have focused on inclusion, sustainability, education, career development and getting immigrants naturalized and on the way to citizenship.

"Sanctuary really is a politicized discussion that would take us away from that core work," Warren said. "We gain something by not getting involved in that debate."

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.

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