Atlanta has become so good at integrating new immigrants that its program has been replicated in around 100 other places. Run by a specialist NGO called Welcoming America, the scheme focuses on connecting recent arrivals with the city’s long-time residents as well as finding job opportunities and helping with language skills. Three of the NGO’s employees have been embedded in the mayor’s office to implement the initiative.
Results & Impact
Tens of thousands of immigrants in Atlanta have received help with language skills, jobs and civic rights. As many as half a million immigrants have settled in the Atlanta area in the past decade
Welcoming America, Atlanta Mayor's Office
The scheme focuses on connecting recent arrivals with the city's long-time residents as well as finding job opportunities and helping with language skills. Initiatives include the "My City" program, which offers workshops about public services and educates immigrants on the city's character, such as the legacy of the Civil Rights movement. The projects were based on recommendations made by a task force of public and private sector individuals. Three people from Welcoming America are embedded in the mayor's office to implement the recommendations, all of which have been adopted by the city
Cost & Value
Running since 2014
One of the main challenges has been finding older migrants who are well established citizens in each community to act as an ambassador to the scheme. Welcoming America has relied on the local business community to point out possible ambassadors
The program has been replicated in some hundred other cities across the US, many of which have joined the "Welcoming America" network. These include Anchorage, San Francisco, St Louis and New York
Atlanta has become so good at integrating new immigrants that its program has been replicated in around 100 other places.
Run by a specialist NGO called Welcoming America, the scheme focuses on connecting recent arrivals with the city’s long-time residents as well as finding job opportunities and helping with language skills. Several of the NGO’s staff have been embedded in the mayor’s office.
“We saw there were challenges when immigrants went to live in certain communities. Those receiving them had to understand there was a benefit,” said David Lubell, founder and Executive Director of Welcoming America.
Around 400-500,000 immigrants have settled in the Atlanta metro area over the past decade, exerting a strain on a city already struggling with dwindling services. While the city initially benefited from the influx of labour, in 2014, concerns were raised that the community was becoming polarised.
That same year, Mayor Kasim Reed and the newly formed Welcoming Atlanta Group together created a task force to examine some of the challenges facing both the city’s immigrants and established residents. The aim was simple: to foster a welcoming atmosphere for all individuals, regardless of race, ethnicity or place of origin. The focus would be on language skills, integration and job opportunities for the newly arrived.
After asking the both new arrivals and established residents what their difficulties were, the task force made some 20 recommendations, all of which have been adopted by the city. Three people from the NGO – unpaid volunteers – were also embedded in the mayor’s office to implement the recommendations.
These include organising a dialogue between immigrant and refugee groups, and residents who live in the receiving communities. As part of that work, the new arrivals are put in touch with local businesses who might be able to offer them jobs. Another recommendation has established a “My City” program, where immigrants and refugees are made aware of Atlanta’s history and current needs. “My City” offers workshops and classes about the city’s public services and educates immigrants on topics such as the legacy of the Civil Rights movement.
One partnership with US Citizenship and Immigrations Services has led to the creation of citizenship corners in public libraries where groups of immigrants and long-time residents can meet and share common experiences. Well-known celebrities within the local community have also been encouraged to promote the scheme.
In Atlanta alone, the organisation has now helped tens of thousands of immigrants and refugees. The various branches of Welcoming America are locally funded, including a large proportion from philanthropy and donations.
“You can have communities which are already diverse, but lack communications skills and training,” said Lubell, who wants to take the scheme to other countries, initially the UK. “Educating people about the welcoming imperative is important. You need to have the whole community in on the idea.”
(Picture: Flickr/Brett Weinstein)