TerriinDC

DC Convening Shared a Vision of Better Immigration Integration

TerriinDC

IWC Executive Director Terri Morris Downs with David Lubbell, Executive Director of Welcoming America, and Jane Gehlhausen with the Mayor’s Office of International and Cultural Affairs.

Jane Gehlhausen of the Mayor’s Office for International and Cultural Affairs and I proudly represented Indianapolis at the recent Welcoming Cities Convening in Washington, DC. We were encouraged to see the work being done nationally and between states and local governments in support of immigrants.

Here’s a snapshot of what we heard on major issues affecting immigrants and Indianapolis:

  • Building Welcoming Communities – The White House announced a new campaign that will connect federal resources with local communities to expand immigrant integration efforts, specifically in the areas of small business development, education, and citizenship resources. The program calls on communities to commit to and act on principles that focus on building inclusive communities that enable all residents to thrive, while advancing immigrant, civic, linguistic and economic integration. Indianapolis has a great start on this already!
  • Issuing driver’s licenses – Data now supports why states should issue driver’s licenses to unauthorized immigrants. States that have enacted such laws have demonstrated its effectiveness in increasing the number of insured drivers, reducing accidents.
  • Office of Immigrant Affairs – In a solidly pro-immigrant stance, most big-city mayors have opened an Office of Immigrant Affairs or New Americans and moved away from simply having Latino Affairs representatives.
  • Language Accessibility – The number one need of immigrants nationally is language accessibility, which should be considered in any integration plan. Cities and nonprofits are negotiating better rates with language lines and interpreting/translation companies.
  • Refugee Resettlement – The U.S. State Department will increased the number of refugees it resettles from 70,000 in 2015 to 85,000 in 2016, and efforts are underway to advocate funding for 100,000+ in 2017.

As you can see, there are many complex, sometimes divisive issues facing U.S. cities as evident by the commentary in the widely covered presidential campaigns. Most of the community leaders we met seemed to recognize the importance of attracting and retaining immigrants and their enormous economic, social and cultural benefits. They face many of the same quality-of-life questions, and like Indianapolis, will continue grassroots efforts to address these challenges, seize the opportunities and ensure our country’s continued success and prosperity.

You can help!
Be an advocate and educate others on why comprehensive immigration reform is crucial to our economy and the well-being of families and join our Welcoming Cities Task Force. Please call (317) 223-0933 or email us by Nov. 20 to get involved in this exciting new initiative and help drive the future of Indianapolis as a Welcoming City.

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TerriMorrisDowns.StaffTerri Morris Downs, has been the executive director for the Immigrant Welcome Center in Indianapolis since its inception 10 years ago.