Santa Clara County Supports Coordinated Immigrant Integration and Engagement Effort

Case Story

To better support the integration of immigrants into the community, Santa Clara County established IRIS – Immigrant Relations and Integration Services. Housed in the County Office of Human Relations, IRIS staff members work on projects that promote positive immigrant relations and integration.

Santa Clara County’s Immigrant Relations and Integration Services

To better support the integration of immigrants into the community, Santa Clara County established the Immigrant Action Network, which later transformed into IRIS – Immigrant Relations and Integration Services. Housed in the County Office of Human Relations, IRIS staff members work on projects that promote positive immigrant relations and integration.

To date more than 100,000 local residents have been assisted with the citizenship process by the county. Courses and resources for immigrant leadership and community education are offered regularly with help from other institutional partners. IRIS staff members also provide trainings to raise the cultural proficiency of local leaders and service providers, and they are helping to develop a county policy for immigrant cultural proficiency. One element of this effort has been the development of an online community database on the history, culture, and conditions faced by the 16 most prevalent immigrant populations in the area.

BOLD Dialogues

In 2008, the county added to this effort by hosting a series of “BOLD Dialogues.” (“BOLD” stands for Building Opportunities for Lasting Dialogue) to cut through divisive prejudice and misunderstanding among people of different racial and ethnic backgrounds.

The first dialogue focused on the experiences of Vietnamese immigrants in the community. A dozen residents, half with roots in Vietnam, gathered for three hours after work to share a meal and learn about each other. Another dialogue involved 25 high school students to address the needs of Latino and Asian youth in the community. A final dialogue focused on Muslims, Arabs and the general community and included more that forty participants, nineteen of whom were Muslim. One participant reflected, “This was a wonderful growth opportunity; it allowed us to find commonalties within our diversity.”

According to an IRIS staff member, these small dialogues “have a big effect in terms of improved community relations and helping people feel a part of their own city and county government. We are trying to help people realize that they have the access and ability to participate actively in government.” The results of these dialogues will inform the work of the Human Relations Commission and the Office of Human Relations, and more are planned for the future.

For more information, see www.sccgov.org/portal/site/ohr and click on the “Immigrant Relations and Immigration Services” link on the left side of the page. Also see www.ImmigrantInfo.org or call the Santa Clara County Office of Human Relations at (408) 792-2300.

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