California Communities Launch “Welcoming” Initiatives to Strengthen Relationships Between Immigrants and Longer-Term Residents
Two California cities, Redwood City and the City of Oakley, are implementing initiatives to improve understanding and strengthen relationships between immigrant community members and longer-term residents. Both communities have undertaken multi-sector planning efforts, with a substantial partnership role for local officials, to develop their respective immigrant “welcoming” program.
In Redwood City, this program is called “Redwood City Together.” It is primarily an undertaking of Redwood City 2020 (www.rwc2020.org), a collaborative composed of Redwood City, local schools, San Mateo County, the John W. Gardner Center for Youth and their Communities (Stanford University), Kaiser Permanente, and the Sequoia Healthcare District. The RWC 2020 collaborative also serves the unincorporated bordering community of North Fair Oaks, which has an ethnically diverse and significantly less affluent community than many other communities in Silicon Valley.
The “Redwood City Together” initiative builds on existing services and activities that are offered by Redwood City 2020 and others, and adds new welcoming-related education and engagement components that together will engage longer-term residents and recent immigrants in a two-way immigrant integration process.
In Oakley, the “You, Me, We = Oakley” program is a unique welcoming partnership that includes city officials, public school administrators, community-based organizations and congregations in one of the state’s newest cities. The City of Oakley has experienced rapid growth – evolving from almond orchards to suburban subdivisions in a short period of time. The community is now home to longer-term residents of Italian and Portuguese descent, recent immigrants from Mexico and the Philippines, and families from urban environments seeking a “place for families in the heart of the delta.”
Oakley has completed an extensive planning process and is now implementing a program involving local leadership, dialogue and communications to promote immigrant welcoming in their community. They plan to enhance the “welcoming” orientation of the city government and area schools, as well as of local residents.
Such work has been pioneered in eighteen other states by Welcoming America, a national, grassroots-driven collaborative that works to promote mutual respect and cooperation between foreign-born and U.S.-born Americans (www.welcomingamerica.org).
In California, the Institute for Local Government (www.ca-ilg.org), the nonprofit research and education affiliate of the League of California Cities and the California State Association of Counties, has partnered with Welcoming America to help support the planning of these first two local welcoming efforts in the state.
A session at the annual meeting of the League of California Cities’ City Managers Department in February 2012, will highlight Oakley’s and Redwood City’s immigrant “welcoming” strategies.This interactive session, Strengthening Communities: Building Relationships Between Immigrants and Longer-term Residents, will feature the city managers of each community who will provide information on the goals and strategies of their city’s immigrant welcoming program.
The Institute for Local Government provides information and resources to support effective and inclusive public engagement in California cities and counties, as well as selected immigrant engagement/integration initiatives. For more information, see www.ca-ilg.org/immigrantengagement.