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As Pa. grows more diverse, lawmakers propose office to welcome newcomers | Thursday Morning Coffee

The Office of New Pennsylvanians would responsible for attracting, retaining, and embracing immigrants, its backers said Wednesday

February 10, 2022 7:17 am

Members of the Welcome Pa. Caucus hold a news conference in the state Capitol Media Center on Wednesday, 2/9/22 (Pa. House Democrats photo).

Good Thursday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

Reflecting the changing face of the rest of the nation, Pennsylvania’s population is growing ever more diverse.

And on Wednesday, a group of Democratic state lawmakers called new attention to a proposal to create a state office tasked with making them feel as welcome as possible in their new home.

The Office of New Pennsylvanians would be responsible for attracting, retaining, and, perhaps most importantly, embracing immigrants who choose to call the commonwealth home, its backers said during a Capitol news conference.

“Immigrants move to our country for the promise of freedom and more opportunity. But recent Census data shows Pennsylvania is lagging in population growth. So, it’s more important than ever to enact policies that welcome them to our beautiful commonwealth,” Rep. Sara Innamorato, D-Allegheny, said of the proposal first floated last May. It’s been sitting in the House State Government Committee since December of last year.

The proposed office “would help provide them with a seamless transition — making it as easy as possible to move here, find jobs, and secure an education.”

The bill’s backers pointed to a 2018 report by the American Immigration Council, showing that 7 percent of the state’s 13 million residents are immigrants, while 9 percent are native-born U.S. citizens with at least one immigrant parent. The same report also showed that immigrants account for 9 percent of all workers in the state.

While it remains the fifth-largest state in the nation, Pennsylvania has grown at a slower rate than the rest of the country.

And the state will pay the price during this year’s round of Congressional redistricting, as it shrinks from 18 seats to 17 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, a change that will cost the Keystone State political clout, and may impact the flow of federal money, which often is driven out based on a state’s population.

The population growth that has happened has occurred among the state’s ethnic and racial minority groups, data shows. Whites remain a majority, making up a little more than 61 percent, according to 2020 Census data. All told, the state’s diversity index increased from 54.9 percent to 61.1 percent, according to the most recent data.

Hispanic residents comprise 18.7 percent of the population, while Pennsylvanians who identify as Black alone account for 12.4 percent of the population.

A little more than 10 percent identify as two or more races, while 6 percent identify as Asian alone. Pennsylvanians who identify as “some other race” account for 8.4 percent of the population, while those who solely identify as American Indian or Alaska native make up 1.1 percent of the state’s population.

And those numbers are showing results on the ground.

Pennsylvania’s Latinos, for instance, have worked to convert their population gains into political clout, our partners at City & State Pa. reported last November. Latinos now make up the majority of the population in Allentown, 29% of Bethlehem, 69% in Reading and 15% in Philadelphia.

Last November, Allentown elected its first Latino mayor, the Capital-Star previously reported.

“The truth of the matter is that from here on out there is no candidate who can win Pennsylvania without courting the Latino vote,” state Rep. Manuel Guzman, D-Berks, told City & State. “It’s not a community that you can kind of just brush aside anymore. It is a community that you actively need to engage with and actually get your hands on the ground and get feet on the ground.”

Members of the Welcome Pa. Caucus hold a news conference in the state Capitol Media Center on Wednesday, 2/9/22 (Pa. House Democrats photo).

State Rep. Joe Hohenstein, D-Philadelphia, another of the bill’s sponsors, said in a statement that his district has a diverse population that includes Chinese, Polish, and Latin American residents.

As a result, it’s “incumbent upon each of us to ensure that people who emigrate from their home country to Pennsylvania will find a new welcoming, supportive home here,” he said, adding that, “Codifying the support we provide to immigrants would establish that we see our responsibility to our immigrant neighbors as a priority and would benefit all Pennsylvanians.”

State Sen. Sharif Street, D-Philadelphia, who also attended the news conference, noted that the state’s “ability to compete economically as a commonwealth will hinge on our ability to attract, retain and integrate [immigrant] talent.”

As the song notes: Immigrants … they get the job done.

Pennsylvania State Capitol Building. (Capital-Star photo by Cassie Miller.)

Our Stuff.
Republican lawmakers who filed suit against Pennsylvania’s mail-in ballot law said Wednesday that they were confident that it would be upheld by the state Supreme CourtStephen Caruso reports.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has pushed back the timeline for all candidates to get on the 2022 primary ballot, Stephen Caruso and Marley Parish report.

Anti-corruption advocates are promising to track House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff, R-Centre, across the commonwealth in the coming weeks to pressure him to call a vote on a bill that would ban legislators from accepting gifts, Stephen Caruso reports.

Pa. residents are ‘drinking better, not more,’ helping to drive liquor sales growth during pandemic, Cassie Miller reports.

During a Wednesday U.S. Senate hearing centered on national parks, Biden administration officials outlined how funding from the Great American Outdoors Act is starting to reduce the backlog of maintenance projects — even as attendance has exploded. Capital-Star Washington Reporter Ariana Figueroa has the story.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is preparing guidance for governors about when to relax masking and other measures meant to slow the spread of COVID-19, but doesn’t want to release those instructions just yet, Capital-Star Washington Reporter Jennifer Shutt reports.

Republican lawmakers across the country, including Pennsylvania, are targeting ballot drop boxes in the fight over voting rights, Capital-Star Democracy Reporter Kira Lerner reports.

At Philadelphia’s historic Smith Memorial Playground in East Fairmount Park, the city’s young people can get to know their local and homegrown heroes with the “Leaders and Legends of Philadelphia” exhibition. It will be on display through Feb. 28, our partners at the Philadelphia Tribune report.

On our Commentary Page this morning: Why do Pa. courts have a say on mail-in voting? They probably shouldn’t, opinion regular Bruce Ledewitz writes. And an advocate asks: If not now, when will Pa. fully fund its intellectual disability system?

Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Franklin, speaks with attendees on the Capital steps of a rally for gun rights on September 29, 2020. (Capital-Star photo by Stephen Caruso)

Elsewhere.
State Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Franklinspent a day on Facebook, where he claimed Facebook was censoring him, the Inquirer reports.

Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, a W. Pa. resident who’s seeking the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate, is taking heat for apparently taking a pass on an online event organized by a coalition of Democratic groups from western Pennsylvania, the Tribune-Review reports.

Gov. Tom Wolf’s 2022 budget address was ‘deja vu all over again,’ PennLive’s John Baer observes. And that’s not all bad.

LancasterOnline goes deep on a rift between the members of Lancaster City Council.

USA Today’s Pennsylvania Capital Bureau takes a look at what parts of Gov. Tom Wolf’s budget proposal are likely to win legislative approval.

The Times-Tribune takes an in-depth look at the education spending in Gov. Tom Wolf’s budget.

Philadelphia is getting an early start on recruiting lifeguards for this summer, WHYY-FM reports.

Poorer cities and growing suburbs will get the most out of Gov. Tom Wolf’s schools plan, WITF-FM reports.

Erie City Council has approved $8 million worth of American Rescue Plan projects, GoErie reports.

A super PAC backed by Democratic operative James Carville is throwing its support to U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb’s, D-17th District, U.S. Senate campaign, PoliticsPA reports.

Black and Latino candidates were the big winners in fourth quarter congressional fundraising, Roll Call reports.

Here’s your #Pennsylvania Instagram of the Day:

(Source @daveostapiuk/Instagram.com)

What Goes On
The House and Senate are out of session until mid-March as budget hearings begin.
10 a.m., Zoom: Sen. Katie Muth, D-Montgomery, on improving the transparency of Pa.’s public pension systems.
12 p.m., Capitol Media Center:  Rep. Joe Hohenstein, D-Philadelphia, and others talk about bringing Disability Equality Education to Pennsylvania’s public school curriculums.

WolfWatch
Gov. Tom Wolf has no public schedule today.

You Say It’s Your Birthday Dept.
Best wishes go out this morning to Eric Heisler, of the Bravo Group, who celebrates today. Congratulations and enjoy the day, sir.

Heavy Rotation
Here’s some brand new music from the Red Hot Chili Peppers that finds prodigal guitarist John Frusciante back in the fold after a decade-plus absence. It’s ‘Black Summer.’


Thursday’s Gratuitous Hockey Link
NHL Hall of Famer Martin St. Louis is in as head coach of the Montreal Canadiens, replacing Dominique Ducharme. The flailing Habs (8-30-7, 23 points) are dead last in the Atlantic Division after making it to the Stanley Cup final last season.

And now you’re up to date.

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John L. Micek
John L. Micek

A 3-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's Editor-in-Chief. An award-winning political reporter, Micek’s career has taken him from small town meetings and Chicago City Hall to Congress and the Pennsylvania Capitol. His weekly column on U.S. politics is syndicated to 800 newspapers nationwide by Cagle Syndicate. He also contributes commentary and analysis to broadcast outlets in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. Micek’s first novel, “Ordinary Angels,” was released in 2019 by Sunbury Press.

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