Category: Building Welcoming Communities Campaign

50 cities and counties honored at White House

| June 30, 2016

Local innovations to welcome all residents, including immigrants and refugees, are driving cultural vitality, prosperity, and global competitive edge.

Today more than 50 U.S. cities and counties were honored at the White House for their innovative and proactive efforts to bring all residents into their community fabric. These communities understand that creating a welcoming environment where all can thrive is an imperative now for their survival, prosperity, and global competitive edge, and they are leading the way for the nation in immigrant integration.

These communities are part of the Building Welcoming Communities Campaign, a partnership among The White House Task Force on New Americans, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and Welcoming America, a national nonprofit organization with expertise in welcoming efforts, to encourage communities to engage in local immigrant integration efforts.

"Since we launched the Building Welcoming Communities Campaign, cities and counties across the country have answered our call and built coalitions that create welcoming, inclusive communities where all can thrive,” said Cecilia Munoz, Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council. “We are pleased to highlight innovative, local efforts and hope others will help us stay true to our core American value of being a place of welcome, where newcomers and established residents work together to build a bright future for all.”

“The local governments being honored today represent the leading edge of a growing movement that recognizes that being more welcoming to all residents, including immigrants, is not only the right thing to do, but smart policy for economic growth and building more cohesive communities,” said Welcoming America Executive Director, David Lubell.

U.S. President Barack Obama has called on these communities to act on a set of principles to build inclusive, welcoming communities that allow all residents to thrive and advance integration efforts in three core areas: civic, economic, and linguistic integration.

The White House also released Bright Spots in Welcoming Communities and Integration, which highlights efforts from several cities and counties. Cities and counties being honored today by The White House include:

  • Atlanta, Georgia: The city has become a national model for how city government, in partnership with business and civic leaders, can create and implement an intentional welcoming plan grounded in its community’s values with an eye towards increasing its competitive edge. Immigrant businesses contribute more than $2.9 billion in annual business revenue to Georgia’s economy.  
  • Dayton, Ohio: Welcome Dayton’s immigrant welcoming approach is a key strategy for building prosperity in a city marked by over 50 years of population decline, which is now being reversed through successful efforts to attract new immigrants. Dayton’s plan has resulted in a 40 percent growth in the immigrant population from 2011-2012 - compared to just seven percent growth for Ohio overall – and has led to thriving business districts and a socially and culturally vibrant city.
  • Los Angeles, California: With an estimated 350,000 lawful permanent residents who are eligible to naturalize living in the city of Los Angeles, under the leadership of Mayor Garcetti, the city is setting the bar for how localities can help residents better their economic prospects by making robust citizenship programming accessible through neighborhood libraries – a practice now being replicated in other cities across the country.
  • Pittsburgh and Alleghany County, Pennsylvania: The region has made welcoming immigrants and refugees a key priority and is a national model for how to incorporate welcoming into an attraction and economic growth strategy.

While immigrant integration starts at the local level, the federal government has a critical role to play in supporting communities to leverage the competitive advantage that comes from creating a welcoming climate, and these efforts must continue beyond the current Administration. The federal government should ensure that host communities are a component of any immigrant integration initiative and that legislation and activities are supported accordingly.

Establishing a White House Office of New Americans, to build on the legacy of the Building Welcoming Communities campaign, is imperative. Such an office is critical to ensure a coordinated response that maximizes resources; leverages interagency and intergovernmental collaboration; and engages both immigrants and receiving communities to create the long-term conditions for successful integration and secure a positive future for all Americans. Read Welcoming America’s vision for a national welcoming strategy.

ACCESS TODAY’S RECORDED PRESS CALL: Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services León Rodríguez, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, and Welcoming America Deputy Director Rachel Peric today offered media a first chance to hear about White House plans to honor them for innovative efforts to welcome immigrants. Listen to the call and Q&A.

CONTACT: Alaina Pitt, Welcoming America, [email protected].

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About Welcoming America

Welcoming America is leading a movement of inclusive communities across the nation becoming more prosperous by making everyone who lives there feel like they belong. As communities are reshaped by demographic change, there must be an intentional effort to manage that transformation. Our unique focus is helping communities move beyond divisiveness and fragmentation to a coordinated web of policies and programs that ensure that all residents—including immigrants—can fully participate and belong. We partner with more than 100 communities across the United States and are the nonprofit partner to the White House’s Building Welcoming Communities Campaign. Learn more at www.welcomingamerica.org.

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White House lifts up welcoming initiatives in Atlanta

| March 28, 2016

Event in Atlanta showcases the city’s progress in integrating immigrants and furthering civil rights and economic development.

Two and a half years ago, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed approached me about taking point to facilitate the first conversation about creating a more welcoming and inclusive Atlanta for all residents. The 2010 census had shown that metro Atlanta was experiencing the second fastest growing foreign-born population in the country. One in five children in the City of Atlanta was growing up in a bilingual or non-English speaking household at a time when the State of Georgia, in 2011, had passed anti-immigrant legislation.

Mayor Reed was adamant that the unwelcoming policies coming out of the state legislature did not speak for Atlanta – a city that prides itself on being both the birthplace of the civil rights movement and the economic engine of the southeast – and that he was not going to allow his city’s greatest asset, its people, to feel unwelcomed in the place they had chosen to call home.

Having just moved to Atlanta, I didn’t yet understand that Fortune 500 companies here, like Coca-Cola and Georgia Power, have a history of rolling up their sleeves and being key partners in city-led initiatives that strengthen their hometown. In retrospect, I shouldn’t have been surprised – mayors and business leaders get it, they see it day in and day out – to compete globally you need diverse talent, and if diverse talent already exists in your backyard, you’d be remiss not to invest in people now to guarantee a prosperous path for your future.

In just two and a half years, an initial closed door conversation between civil society and municipal government has developed into Welcoming Atlanta, a partnership between the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs and civil society to ensure a coordinated strategy to welcome new Atlantans into the city’s social and economic fabric.

Earlier this month, the City of Atlanta was held up as an example by the White House, when they chose it for a Regional Convening on New Americans as part of the Building Welcoming Communities Campaign. The White House campaign – Welcoming America is the lead partner -  supports communities to strengthen local immigrant and refugee integration efforts.

For the past few months, Welcoming America has had the privilege of working closely with the Administration to figure out how to best support, and celebrate, the welcoming efforts expanding across the country.

White House Regional Convenings on New Americans have shed light on the unique and innovative approaches cities are taking to create more cohesive communities and the deep commitment that exists on the ground to getting welcoming right. For example in Atlanta, there are now citizenship corners established in libraries and immigrant-owned grocery stores, and a new multicultural liaison unit within the public safety departments.

I left the City of Atlanta to join Welcoming America in 2015. For Atlanta to be selected for one of the White House Regional Convenings was a source of personal pride. Seeing a packed room of local leaders and White House officials committed to providing thoughtful next steps for Atlanta and learning about the programs my successors have scaled and their plans for the immediate future -  now that was exciting.

Mayor Reed said at the event: “The City of Atlanta has a long and proud legacy of inclusion and progress. I am proud to continue that tradition today by partnering with the Obama Administration to host the White House Regional Convening on New Americans. Atlanta’s immigrant and foreign-born population are leaders in our community, starting new businesses at high rates and investing right here in Atlanta. I established the Office of Immigrant Affairs to offer support and to ensure opportunities are open to everyone.”

The convening was among numerous regional gatherings scheduled to take place in cities across the nation, leading up to the commemoration of Immigrant Heritage Month in June, designed to highlight immigrant integration best practices and broaden and deepen local multi-sector partnerships to advance civic, economic and linguistic integration efforts. Atlanta is one of more than 50 local governments that have joined this campaign, which is designed to encourage communities to welcome all residents so that the greater community can thrive.

For more information about the Building Welcoming Communities Campaign and how your community can join, visit www.whitehouse.gov/newamericans.

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