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Mayor Jim Kenney. Photo: Simón Bolívar

Mayor Kenney: Philadelphia, a city of immigrants

Mayor Jim Kenney spoke at the "I am an American Immigrant" reception.

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During the I am an American Immigrant Reception, Mayor Jim Kenney, who has long been a vocal supporter of immigrants in Philadelphia, recalled the immigrant story of his own people — the Irish.

The mayor, who delivered his remarks prior to the awards ceremony, spoke of how the Irish began to migrate to the U.S. in droves during the 1800s, and when they arrived at Ellis Island, they arrived undocumented.

“We were not wanted here,” Kenney said. “We were not welcome here.”

Now, nearly two centuries removed from when his ancestors first stepped foot on American soil, the plight of the Irish — as well as many other older immigrant groups — is reflected in the hostilities and persecution projected against immigrants from Mexico, Central America, and South America.

It’s a widespread negative perception that’s fueled by the anti-immigrant rhetoric spewed by President Donald Trump and his administration, which Kenney condemned. In Philadelphia, Kenney knows that immigrants contribute in so many ways, starting businesses, paying taxes, and making this city the “rich, diverse, vibrant, multicultural” place that it is.

“Without immigration, Philadelphia would be sliding backwards,” Kenney said

The mayor said it is the responsibility of cities like Philadelphia to be the opposite of the president — who he did not mention by name — which is “welcoming and open.”

Kenney congratulated those recognized in the I am an American Immigrant campaign, and he encouraged immigrants not to let their children “forget their roots, their history, their culture, or their language.”

“It’s really extremely important,” the mayor said.

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