Houston Recognized as ‘Welcoming City’ for Immigrants and Refugees

Welcoming CommunitiesThe City of Houston Office of International Communities, Neighborhood Centers and the Houston Immigration Legal Services Collaborative this week announced a partnership that will make Houston an official “Welcoming City” committed to creating a welcoming environment for immigrants and refugees.  The partnership will launch a multi-sector strategic planning effort focused on welcoming and integrating new Americans.

Houston joins numerous municipal governments that have signed on as Welcoming Cities, including Los Angeles, Atlanta, Chicago and New York City.  Welcoming Cities is an initiative of the White House Building Welcoming Communities Campaign, the White House Task Force on New Americans, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and Welcoming America, a national nonprofit organization with expertise in local innovations that advance civic, economic and linguistic integration.

“As a Welcoming City, Houston is committed to building an inclusive environment where all communities have the opportunity to contribute to our economy and vibrant civic, social and cultural fabric,” said Mayor Sylvester Turner.  “We are the most diverse city in the nation.  With that distinction comes the responsibility of ensuring that we are also an inclusive and equitable city where everyone has fair access to jobs, education, essential services and a voice in local government.  This strategic plan will help guide us as we work toward that goal.”

Immigrant Integration Strategic Plan
Welcoming Houston will bring together leaders from the nonprofit, business, education, faith and cultural sectors to develop a multi-sector strategic plan focused on improving opportunities and advancing integration for foreign-born residents.  The plan will set forth recommendations focused on economic mobility, access to services, education, language access, public safety and legal status.  Welcoming Houston partners will present the plan to the mayor in November as part of the city’s observance of Citizenship Month.

“This plan will continue to make Houston a welcoming place of opportunity for all,” said Angela Blanchard, President and CEO of Neighborhood Centers.  “Through this collaboration, we will ensure our city enhances our position as one of the most attractive destinations for immigrants looking for a place where they feel welcomed, they can work and they can build a future for themselves and their families.”

“This strategic planning process will only work if a wide array of stakeholders is engaged,” said Kate Vickery, Executive Director of the Houston Immigration Legal Services Collaborative, a local coalition representing many immigrant-serving nonprofit organizations.  “We are looking forward to working with members of the public and private sector to make recommendations on how Houston can be more welcoming to its incredibly rich and growing immigrant populations.”

The planning effort is supported by the Gateways for Growth Challenge, an initiative of Partnership for a New American Economy (NAE) and Welcoming America.  Houston is one of 20 communities nationwide selected to receive support for immigrant integration planning.

Immigrant Population Economic Impact
Current data on the impact of the foreign-born population in Texas and Houston, including tax contributions, spending power and role in key industries as leaders and job creators, supports the importance of building a welcoming environment for immigrants and refugees.

NAE research data reveals that foreign-born residents contributed $116.5 billion to the Houston region’s GDP and held $31.8 billion in spending power in 2014.  While foreign-born residents make up one-quarter of the overall-population, they comprise 32% of the employed labor force and 42% of the self-employed labor force.  Foreign-born residents in Houston are twice more likely to own a business than their U.S.-born counterparts.  Statewide, the data shows that immigrants made up nearly 17% of the population and contributed $29.1 billion in taxes, comprising roughly 17% of the state’s total share in 2014.  That same year, immigrants earned $118.7 billion or about 16.8% of all earnings in the state.

The launch of Welcoming Houston coincides with the Reason for Reform national campaign, which brings together state business, civic and cultural leaders to urge Congress to take action on immigration reform.

Welcoming Houston is administered by the City of Houston Department of Neighborhoods Office of International Communities in collaboration with Neighborhood Centers and the Houston Immigration Legal Services Collaborative.  For more information visit http://www.houstontx.gov/oic, http://www.neighborhood-centers.org and http://www.houstonimmigration.org.

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