St. Louis pushes for more immigrants

ST. LOUIS (KSDK) – The Gateway City is getting a reputation for more than just the Cardinals and Budweiser beer: we're recognized as one of the five cities across the country pushing the envelope to attract immigrants.

Sherry Rouhani is one of them. She followed her brother to St. Louis from Iran in 1987. A rabbi gave her her first job.

She used the money she made at a little fudge shop to get her degree. She owned a couple of restaurants on her way to Choice Foods, where she feeds 2,000 urban league children every day with whole, fresh food.

"It's not a lot of profit but it's a lot of satisfaction for me," she said.

She hired 25 people desperate for work.

And it's her immigrant heart, American spirit and entrepreneurial drive that the Mosaic Project wants. It's St. Louis' answer to big, diverse cities like New York and Chicago.

Sixty percent of immigrants are more likely to start businesses when they come here. Forty four percent have a college education.

Betsy Cohen of the Mosaic Project says St. Louis has the second-lowest population growth in the country. The city's Mosaic Project is changing that by making it easier for immigrants to come, work and live here.

When it comes to immigration issues, St. Louis is sandwiched between two polar opposites.

On one side is Illinois, where undocumented workers can apply for driver's licenses. In Missouri, meanwhile, lawmakers made English the official language and gave law enforcement the green light to do traffic-stop immigration status checks.

They also made it illegal for universities to give financial aid to undocumented students.

"We make access easier," Cohen said. "We have development of English as a second language, we make it easier for a foreign-born to start business."

"[Immigrants] create jobs," Rouhani said. "St. Louis needs that."

And Sherry is convinced her purple place on Clayton road is proof.


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