While attention has been focused on federal immigration efforts these last few months, states and cities continue to encourage and promote immigration as well. From well-established programs like Welcoming America, Cities of Migration, and the Building Resilient Regions research group, to new programs like the Welcoming Cities and Counties initiative, the impetus to invite immigrants into our communities continues to grow. Indeed, an increasing number of local places recognize that attracting and retaining immigrants helps position communities as competitive leaders. In particular, the Welcoming Cities and Counties Initiative with Welcoming America, and Cities of Migration, each offer examples of local welcoming and immigrant integration initiatives. Such programs stand out as forward-looking illustrations of how receiving communities can maximize opportunities for economic growth and cultural vitality by proactively charting their welcoming path.
As city leaders increasingly focus on new models of engagement and see the need to foster a welcoming environment as a point of public policy, several fundamental questions surface:
What does it mean to be a welcoming place?
Amid broader national level immigration reform, how can local communities build consensus and chart their own course of immigrant integration and welcome, define the steps needed to get there, and identify when they have become welcoming?
How do policy makers and local community/city leaders ensure that the public and other sectors understand and accept the value of being welcoming and contribute to achieving it? How can communities implement and sustain what works to continue being a place of welcome?