Ravenstahl joins national push for immigration overhaul

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Pittsburgh has joined a growing list of cities seeking changes in national immigration law as a way to become more diverse and economically competitive.

Mayor Luke Ravenstahl on Friday signed the Partnership for a New American Economy, an immigration-overhaul campaign led by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. In all, the compact has been signed by more than 500 mayors, plus civic and business leaders from across the country.

Mr. Ravenstahl said Carnegie Mellon University and other universities attract some of the top minds in the world, guide them to prestigious degrees and then, because of immigration laws, must send them home.

"It's the craziest, most frustrating thing," Mr. Ravenstahl said during a ceremony at the August Wilson Center for African American Culture, Downtown. He said he'd like more of those students to stay here and boost the local economy.

He was joined by Melanie Harrington, CEO of Vibrant Pittsburgh; Steven Sokol, president and CEO of World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh, and Audrey Russo, president and CEO of Pittsburgh Technology Council.

Mr. Sokol said the signing ceremony was timed to coincide with the One Young World summit, which has brought young up-and-comers from dozens of countries to Pittsburgh. He said "economic competitiveness is not just a national issue but a local issue as well."

About 7 percent of the city's population is foreign-born, well below the percentage in other cities and a far cry from the days in the late 19th and early 20th centuries when Pittsburgh was an immigration hub.

The scarcity of immigrants is a concern partly because they are disproportionately involved in entrepreneurship, job-creation and research breakthroughs, Mr. Ravenstahl said.

In addition to joining the national push to change immigration laws, local officials are making another kind of effort to lure the foreign-born to Pittsburgh.

Last month, the Pittsburgh Promise announced that it would use college scholarships of up to $40,000 as an incentive to attract Hispanic immigrants from cities within a 300-mile radius of Pittsburgh.

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Joe Smydo: jsmydo@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1548.


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