FAQs | Welcoming America


What is Welcoming America?

Welcoming America leads a movement of inclusive communities becoming more prosperous by making everyone feel like they belong. We believe that all people, including immigrants, should be valued contributors and are vital to the success of both our communities and our shared future.

As a non-profit, non-partisan organization, Welcoming America is proud to support the diverse communities and partners who are leading efforts to make their communities more vibrant places for all. 

What is a welcoming community?

Just as fertile soil is needed for a seed to grow, welcoming communities foster a culture and policy environment that makes it possible for newcomers of all backgrounds to feel valued and to fully participate alongside their neighbors in the social, civic, and economic fabric of their adopted hometowns.

How is Welcoming America's approach different?

Welcoming America’s groundbreaking social change model is unique in its holistic local focus – our approach goes beyond a single program or service to work with institutions across the community to reduce the barriers that immigrants face to fully participating, and build bridges between newcomers and long-time residents. 

Where does Welcoming America work?

Welcoming America helps local governments and nonprofit organizations to build a welcoming infrastructure in more than 100 communities across the United States, and we are piloting international welcoming efforts in Germany and Australia. Here’s a map of where we work.

A significant proportion of the nation’s major cities, as well as many smaller towns and communities, have chosen to participate in the Welcoming Cities and Counties Network, an independent, non-partisan initiative, which today includes places ranging from Salt Lake City and County, Utah, to Cincinnati, Ohio, and inclusive of major US cities like Philadelphia, Houston, Denver, and Los Angeles. These leading places recognize that being welcoming is a key strategy for attracting and retaining people of all backgrounds, and for broad community revitalization. 

How do welcoming communities benefit us?

Becoming a more inclusive community means a more vibrant culture, more jobs created by immigrant entrepreneurs, and a thriving economy that benefits us all. 

Welcoming helps us work together to make sure that all of us - white, black, Christian, Muslim, or any faith - are part of making a community a great place to live. By giving each person an equal opportunity to contribute, it makes the entire community stronger.

What does it mean to be a member of Welcoming America and who can join?

Local governments and nonprofits are eligible to join Welcoming America’s network. Members commit to advancing and institutionalizing welcoming efforts in their community, and they receive benefits including ideas, approaches, training, resources, networking, certification, and leveraged funding. Learn more about commitments and benefits of joining as a local government or nonprofit.

What is a Welcoming City or County?

A Welcoming City or County is one that joins Welcoming America and that:

  • Plans: All relevant sectors, such as government, business, non-profit, and others, work together to create a welcoming community climate that supports long-term integration.
  • Commits: Municipalities commit to institutionalize strategies ensuring the ongoing inclusion and long-term economic and social integration of newcomers.
  • Builds Community: Newcomers and long-time residents find common ground and shared leadership.
  • Communicates: Messages of unity and shared values permeate the community through the media, through the voices of leaders, and among residents.
  • Sustains: Policies and practices are considered to ensure interactions between new and long-time residents remain positive ones and the community’s economic vitality remains strong.

What is the difference between Welcoming Cities and "Sanctuary cities"?

A Welcoming City or County is one that joins the Welcoming America network and works across multiple sectors, such as government, business, and non-profit, to create inclusive policies and practices such as making it easier for entrepreneurs to start a business or having government documents available in multiple languages. Welcoming Cities are guided by the principles of inclusion and creating communities that prosper because everyone feels welcome, including immigrants and refugees.

There is no legal definition for a "Sanctuary city". Nevertheless, a commonality among cities that have adopted sanctuary-type policies is a desire to resist changes in the law that would require local criminal law enforcement agencies to do the federal government’s job of enforcing immigration laws. Many do this by preventing local officials from asking people about their immigration status. Other cities refuse to use local resources to detain immigrants. The main purpose for these types of policies is to comply with constitutional requirements and to protect public safety by maintaining positive relationships between local law enforcement and immigrant communities.

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Who supports welcoming communities?

Our growing network benefits from broad community support from a range of mainstream partners. Represented among the organizations that are collaborating with Welcoming Cities and Counties at the local level are faith, civic and corporate partners, as well as broad bi-partisan support. These include:

  • Numerous corporate partners and economic development agencies, as well as local financial institutions, Main Street entrepreneurs, and larger employers.
  • Civic partners, ranging from local YMCAs to universities and educational partners.
  • Public sector partners, including not only mayors, county executives, governors, and other local and state elected officials, but police chiefs, school board members, and many others, across the political spectrum.
  • Local philanthropic partners, from the United Way to community foundations.
  • Partners across multiple faiths.

Together, this broad range of welcoming communities and ambassadors are building prosperous futures and stronger communities. We see this reflected in simple things, like more parents participating in PTAs and more entrepreneurs opening businesses on Main Street.

What does Welcoming America do?

A growing number of cities and towns recognize that being welcoming leads to prosperity and are looking for a roadmap and support to take action. Welcoming America provides the inspiration and foundation for this growing movement, bringing together an innovative and growing network of local governments and nonprofits through our Welcoming Network to help them transform communities into more inclusive places. We provide ideas, approaches, training, resources, networking, certification, and leveraged funding as we share new approaches to inclusion and promising practices to help create an environment where everyone can truly thrive. 

Those in our network may get more involved by joining Welcoming Cities and Counties or Welcoming Economies Global Network. Through Welcoming International, we share best practices through cross-country knowledge exchanges to grow the welcoming movement worldwide.

We build on the great work happening in local communities by providing tested approaches to creating inclusive, welcoming places for immigrants and all residents. Our Welcoming Institute provides online and in-person training, and our Welcoming Refugees initiative offers support to ensure the success of refugees in their new communities, supported by the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement.

We work to change systems and culture by helping communities create policy, reinforce welcoming principles, and communicate the socioeconomic benefits of inclusion. Our Welcoming Standard guides communities on their path to welcoming, and each year during Welcoming Week, we help organize hundreds of local events to bring together diverse residents in a spirit of unity and celebrate making communities welcoming for everyone. Today, one in every eight Americans lives in a welcoming community.

Learn more about our values

Why build welcoming communities?

Welcoming communities are safer, stronger, and more vibrant. 

They are inclusive places where neighbors get to know one another. Being a welcoming community is about inviting new Americans to join us in building strong communities, finding strength in our diversity, and resisting fear and division.

Welcoming communities connect new residents to their neighbors and to local government, creating a climate where immigrants and refugees become deeply involved in their community and invest their time, money, and hopes.

Who supports Welcoming America?

Our work is funded by hundreds of individual donors, foundations and other public and private organizations every year.

How can I get involved?

Become a member: Municipal governments and nonprofits can join Welcoming America’s network to make their communities more inclusive.

Participate in Welcoming Week: Learn more about hosting or participating in an event in your community.

Make a donation: Help make our nation more welcoming to immigrants, one community at a time. Welcoming America is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, and our Federal Tax ID is 27-1049805.