[Photo credit: Welcoming America]
Whether it’s a pandemic, climate disaster, or seeking new economic opportunities, humanity has been on the move since the earliest of times. In the United States, more than 40 million people were born in another country and moved for various reasons: Education, work, and family. Some, like refugees, had no choice but to move while fleeing violence or persecution.
Once immigrants arrive in a new place, challenges may arise for both the immigrants and the communities they move to. From language differences to the transference of foreign work credentials, immigrants can face a number of barriers to full inclusion in the civic, economic, and social fabric of communities. Community leaders faced with rapid demographic changes may not always know how best to interact or engage with these new residents. Too often, we see that without a deliberate effort, tensions will arise between new and long-time residents, creating divisions and fracturing social cohesion.
Welcoming America was established in 2009 to help communities build bridges with newcomers and create the local infrastructure needed to fully include immigrants, refugees, and all residents in community solutions. Since then, our membership network of more than 250 nonprofits and local governments has sought the expertise, technical assistance, and resources from our staff and peer groups to chart a course towards more welcoming and inclusive communities.
Through programs like Certified Welcoming, city and county governments have a concrete roadmap to begin and sustain the journey to become more welcoming. As of 2021, there are 11 places that have achieved this status. For example, Erie, Pa., has propelled an initiative for language access improvement during the pandemic and Dallas, Texas has developed digital hubs for community resources.
Year round, Welcoming America staff support our members’ efforts to institutionalize immigrant inclusion in their communities, whether that’s creating municipal government offices focused on immigrant inclusion, strategizing cross-sector Welcoming Plans, or developing and implementing policies that improve the lives of immigrants and create more cohesive communities. Annually, we host the Welcoming Interactive, a conference that convenes our members and partners to learn from each other and their peer groups on issues relevant to immigrant inclusion, such as housing, community bridge building, and advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives.
Some ways to get involved:
- Learn: Our public webinars are open for anyone seeking expertise and best practices — you can learn about these by signing up for our email list.
- Participate in Welcoming Week: You can be part of fostering more welcoming communities through our annual Welcoming Week celebration in September, which intentionally brings diverse members of communities together.
- Support Welcoming America: You can support the work of the Welcoming Network by donating or purchasing swag that shows the world you’re a welcomer.
Original contribution by Lola Pak, Communications Director at Welcoming America.
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