The August 2007 issue of Reader’s Digest magazine features a six-page article on the City of Utica, titled “Second Chance City.” The article profiles Utica’s emergence as a new home for refugees from around the world.
“Reader’s Digest has captured the essence of how important the influx of refugees has been to our economic and social revival,” said Mayor Timothy Julian, who was interviewed for the story. “Utica has truly become a place for refugees to get a second chance at life.”
Without the massive influx of immigrants from the late 80's onward the Utica/Rome metro would be a ghost town today. Those immigrants, and their families, now make up over twenty percent of the county's population and over fifty percent of the population in some districts. They are, quite literally, the only thing keeping our area viable.
That's not to say the situation is all sweetness and light. The average immigrant is a net drain on the county's financial resources for the first six years of thier residence, but after that they increasingly generate more tax dollars than they consume. In some cases that break-even point arrives even faster thanks to the rapid growth of small businesses like nail salons, restaurants, ethnic grocery stores, carpenters, and metalworkers. Just take a look at the business incorporation announcements in the paper and you'll see that they're fueling one of the few bright spots in the local economy.
Personally, I think one of the biggest benefits immigrants provide to our culture as a whole is their unique perspective. Someone that spent five years in a communist re-education camp in Vietnam has a much firmer grasp of what "tyranny" and "repression" actually is, as opposed to the candy ass "I'm inconvenienced, hence repressed" definition most native-born Americans have. There are people walking the streets of Utica today that can offer a personal take on what "torture" really is, and how casually it's used in the rest of the world. And you can't really appreciate how luxurious American "poverty" is until you've talked to someone that once counted themselves lucky to have a wooden stick.