Immigrants and refugees have always been a source of our Nation’s strength. We are rightfully proud of our great diversity; it is among our country’s greatest assets.
And we are rightfully proud that we are a nation of immigrants—it’s at the very core of our American values. We are unique on earth for being a place that is united by a set of ideas, especially the notion that, no matter who you are or where you’re from, in this place we are equals under the law. We are Americans. President Obama established the White House Task Force on New Americans to build on these essential values:
“We set up a Task Force on New Americans to help immigrants and refugees better integrate into our American communities. And what’s been exciting is how many local communities are taking it upon themselves to welcome our newest Americans into the fold and introduce them to the both the rights and responsibilities, as well as benefits of citizenship.”
Last September, the President called on local governments to commit to creating welcoming environments for immigrants and refugees through the Building Welcoming Communities Campaign. More than 50 cities and counties have answered the call.
Today, these cities, counties and other communities are implementing innovative approaches to integrating newcomers, recognizing that immigrants and refugees are sources of economic and cultural vitality. These communities are helping permanent residents prepare for citizenship; welcoming students, workers and entrepreneurs who contribute to our economy; and strengthening our national tradition of being a beacon of hope for some of the world’s most vulnerable people.
As Task Force co-chairs, we are inspired by what state and local governments as well as business, community, faith, and philanthropic leaders have achieved.
Today, we celebrate the success of the Building Welcoming Communities Campaign that brought together more than 850 leaders across the country at ten Regional Convenings on New Americans across the country, including in Los Angeles, CA; Houston, TX, Miami, FL; Atlanta, GA; San José, CA; Boston, MA; Dearborn, MI; Denver, CO; Santa Fe, NM; and Seattle, WA.
We applaud their efforts, creative thinking, and lasting impact on new Americans and their communities. A new report, Bright Spots in Welcoming and Integration, captures so me of the innovative approaches that our Building Welcoming Communities Campaign cities and counties have undertaken to make new Americans feel at home.
Local communities—big and small—will be honored today at the White House for their work in building welcoming communities as well as civic, economic, and linguistic integration. A few of the cities and counties recognized in our Bright Spots in Welcoming and Integration include:
The City of Atlanta (GA), which in partnership with Atlanta Information Management, organized the third Atlanta ConnectHome (HUD) event through which 55 families in immigrant-dense neighborhoods received free tablets and internet service for 12 months, along with education on how to use technology to improve their educational outcomes.
The City of Boise (ID) Department of Arts and History, which supported a photojournalism project on refugees, entitled Stronger Shines the Light Inside Project. This nationally recognized project by Angie Smith gathered photographs and stories from refugee communities and will be exhibited in downtown Boise in September 2016. The project will give the community the opportunity to promote diversity and inclusion through public art.
The City of Boston (MA), which recently formed a Task Force on Foreign-Trained Professionals that is exploring how city government can support residents with skills, credentials, and higher education from outside the country. This task force seeks to maximize the potential of immigrants and refugees with training and education obtained abroad.
The City of Los Angeles (CA), which has partnered with over 20 direct service providers, 10 ethnic media partners, and several local elected officials to launch two major citizenship campaigns—Step Forward LA and ¡Protégete!…¡Ciudadanía Ya!—that target Asian American and Pacific Islander and Latino communities locally.
The City of Pittsburgh (PA), which launched 30 Neighbors-30 Days, a storytelling campaign to raise awareness of the city’s growing diversity and its positive impact to their communities, and partnered with local groups to hold a Welcoming Bike Ride for immigrant, refugee, and Latino communities.
These communities are rising up to ensure that immigrants and refugees can continue to a source of strength and vitality by welcoming them as new Americans and creating opportunities and offering resources that help them thrive.
President Obama has remarked, “We were all strangers once, until America welcomed us home.” We will continue to welcome others home—and make sure they and their neighbors succeed together.
To learn more, read our Bright Spots in Welcoming and Integration and checkout our Building Welcoming Communities Roadmap to Success.
View the report here.
Cecilia Muñoz is Assistant to the President and Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council. León Rodríguez is Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.