DC Convening Shared a Vision of Better Immigration Integration


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.


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

Live Local, Think Global Event to Discuss Impact of Significant Foreign-Born Population Growth

facebook bannerNumber of immigrants in Marion County on pace to nearly double in 10 years

INDIANAPOLIS (Aug. 19, 2015) – The Immigrant Welcome Center and the Indy Chamber have opened registration for the inaugural Live Local, Think Global event to be held at 5 p.m. on September 10 at the Athenaeum in Indianapolis. The event will serve as a call-to-action for businesses to prepare for and embrace Indianapolis’ changing demographics.

“To be successful, Indianapolis must plan ahead to adapt to this immigration trend, welcome immigrants and embrace them as neighbors, students, entrepreneurs, coworkers and customers,” said Neelay Bhatt, Immigrant Welcome Center board member, vice president, PROS Consulting Inc., and a first-generation immigrant to Indianapolis from India. “To put it into basketball terms, good players go where the ball is, great ones go where the ball is going to be, and we want Indy to continue to be a great city.”

Based on U.S. Census and American Community Survey data1, PROS Consulting says the number of immigrants in Marion County is projected to grow from roughly 60,000 today to 118,000 in 2023, a jump from 8 to 12.5 percent of the population. [View infographic]

“By 2026, it is projected that Marion County will be a minority-majority County,” said Bhatt. “If Indianapolis doesn’t adapt, we will be left behind. Residents and businesses will be drawn to our peer cities such Charlotte, Columbus, Kansas City and any other immigrant-friendly city.”

“Thriving cities boast great neighborhoods, the best job opportunities and the highest quality of life for everyone,” said Michael Huber, President and CEO, Indy Chamber. “Indianapolis is already the Racing Capital of the World and the Crossroads of America. To remain competitive—locally, nationally and internationally—we need to be the Most Welcoming City in America.”

[Related: Indianapolis Named 51st Welcoming America City]

Huber will be joined at the September 10 event by a panel of business leaders from Cummins, Eli Lilly and Company, Indiana Farm Bureau and Keystone Construction. The event will be emceed by Indianapolis Star columnist Mathew Tully and WIBC reporter Mike Corbin.
For additional information or to register for the event, visit the Live Local, Think Global site. Event activity can be tracked at #ThinkGlobalIndy.

What does the demographic shift mean to the Indy workforce?
In less than 10 years, the number of immigrants age 25 or older with a bachelor’s degree or higher also will grow by 50 percent, meaning newcomers will arrive with a competitive skill set attractive to businesses looking to relocate or start up in Indianapolis. [View infographic]

Forty percent of Fortune 500 firms were founded by immigrants or their children, according to the Partnership for a New American Economy. “In fact, the CEOs of two of the largest tech companies in the world, Microsoft and Google, as well as those at Pepsi and MasterCard are first-generation immigrants,” said Bhatt. “We must cultivate an environment that will enable the next Google or Apple to be built right here in Indy.”

Top three growth industries for Indy immigrants
The top three growth industries for immigrants in Indianapolis, which include: 1) arts and entertainment and hospitality, 2) education services and health care, and 3) professional, scientific, technology and management, will each more than double by 2023.

“The demographics of our nation are changing rapidly,” Huber added. “Our laws and governments, schools and businesses, and faith, service and health organizations—the very fabric of our communities, need to be proactive and evolve with them.”

[Related –Welcoming Week 2015, Sept. 12 – 20, to Feature ALL-IN Block Party on Monument Circle]

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1PROS Consulting Inc. used straight-line linear regression to project 2018 and 2023 demographics based on the population trends in Marion County from 2009-2013 using 2010 U.S. Census data and American Community Survey2 data through 2013.

2The ACS is a nationwide survey by the U.S. Census Bureau that collects and produces information on demographic, social, economic, and housing characteristics about the U.S. population every year. About 1 in 38 U.S. households per year receives an invitation to participate in the ACS.

About Immigrant Welcome Center
immigrant welcome center logoThe Immigrant Welcome Center began community outreach in 2007 through its Natural Helpers program, which today includes 81 volunteers representing 38 countries and speaking 40 languages. Natural Helpers are immigrants themselves who live and work in the communities they serve. They are a trained, dedicated group of bilingual volunteers who connect newcomers to community organizations that can provide information and referral for assistance with transportation, health care, employment and job training, education, legal issues, ESL classes and more.

In addition to the Natural Helpers program, the Immigrant Welcome Center serves as a resource for community programs by collecting information about immigrant needs and how to best meet them, as well as by coordinating interagency services and addressing barriers to access.

About Indy Chamber
Indy Chamber - Vertical_pmsThe Indy Chamber is the voice of progress and improvement for the Indianapolis region’s business community. With membership of nearly 2,300 businesses representing 230,000 employees in the Indianapolis region, the Indy Chamber is leading the effort to strengthen the business climate, improve the state of education, revitalize neighborhoods and enhance the region’s workforce. In 2012, the Indy Chamber merged with Indy Partnership, Develop Indy, and Business Ownership Initiative.