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Opening Minds, Opening Doors, Opening Communities: Cities Leading for Immigrant Integration

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December 15, 2015

In 63 US cities, officials are working to better integrate immigrants. Is yours one? @CSII_USC @WelcomingUSA
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This Americas Society/Council of the Americas and Welcoming America report, authored by the USC Center for the Study of Immigration Integration, explores the quiet revolution taking place in U.S. cities and metropolitan areas, where municipalities are actively devising and implementing strategies to better welcome and integrate new Americans.

The report, Opening Minds, Opening Doors, Opening Communities: Cities Leading for Immigrant Integration, identifies 63 city-level institutions in places as diverse as Nashville, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, and Salt Lake City where local authorities are promoting immigrant integration, which the authors define as “as improved economic mobility for, enhanced civic participation by, and receiving society openness to immigrants.” Months of conversations with the directors of local offices promoting reception and support for immigrant populations paint a picture of a country where authorities and stakeholders in the community are devoting time and effort to strengthen social cohesion by welcoming rather than rejecting the newcomers.

In the report, the authors identify the value added of institutions within city governments, as well as other immigrant integration efforts across the country. The report examines different iterations of such offices for immigrant integration across the nation and the contexts within which they were created. In doing so, the authors highlight lessons learned and best practices that can be found across the country, as well as recommendations for other cities and regions and for the federal government as well.

Published at a time when the tenor of the debate around immigrants and refugees in the United States has frequently gone beyond realities and figures, this timely report provides a fact-based approach to the efforts that municipal governments as well as civic and business leaders are making to defuse potential tension and capitalize on the considerable impact that immigrants make in boosting the U.S. economic and civic vitality.

This report was made possible with support from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and Welcoming America.

About the Authors

The University of Southern California's Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration (CSII) prepared this report. The report's chief authors, Manuel Pastor and Rhonda Ortiz from CSII and Els de Graauw from Baruch College, the City University of New York, are grateful for the assistance of their CSII colleagues Vanessa Carter, Magaly Lopez, and Jared Sanchez, each of whom had a hand in field research, interviewing, analyzing, and writing. The team is greatly indebted to graduate research students Sandy Lo, whose background research and phone interviews connected the authors with offices across the country, and Victor Sanchez, who pitched in near the end of the writing process. Deep appreciation also goes to the many city institutions working to integrate immigrants across the nation and who graciously opened their doors to the team.

At Americas Society/Council of the Americas, Vice President Brian Winter leads the organizations' Immigration and Integration Initiative, under which the report was produced. The initiative's former director, Kate Brick, and former policy associate Steven McCutcheon Rubio both played fundamental roles in the conception of this report, and policy associate Brendan O'Boyle was responsible for the editing, production, and launch of the report.

Both CSII and AS/COA extend their gratitude to Welcoming America and the Knight Foundation for their generous support, without which this report would not have been possible.

Paula Daneze designed this publication.

About the AS/COA Immigration and Integration Initiative

The Immigration and Integration Initiative advances the integration of immigrants and promotes positive dialogue around the economic contributions of immigrants and Latinos overall across the United States. Launched after the congressional attempt to pass comprehensive immigration reform in 2007, the initiative creates opportunities for business leaders and policymakers to raise awareness of the positive contributions that can result from changing demographics in various U.S. cities.

Please note: An earlier version of this report incorrectly referred to Ohio State University as the publisher of a study on attitudes toward immigrants. The study was conducted by Wright State University.

Also, an earlier version of this report incorrectly described Welcoming Pittsburgh as an official office for immigrant integration. Welcoming Pittsburgh is not an institutionalized office, but is rather a special mayoral initiative.