Make Gainesville more inclusive for immigrants

Gainesville has declared itself welcoming to immigrants, but still has work to do to ensure foreign-born residents can access needed services and fully participate in civic life.

Our city would contribute to the achievement of these objectives by following the recommendations of the Gainesville Immigrant Neighbor Inclusion Initiative (GINI). The group’s 2022 Immigrant Inclusion Action Plan, released on Tuesday, includes dozens of proposals aimed at “creating an inclusive and safe community for immigrants.”

The report was developed over 15 months through the collaboration of city staff with 60 residents and eight organizations, as well as input from 182 foreign-born respondents. His the recommendations include measures intended to help foreign-born residents of Gainesville gain better access to education, healthcare, law enforcement and other important services.

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Immigrants are an important and vital segment of our community, including foreign-born University of Florida faculty and students, immigrants who have started a local business, and thousands of other immigrants living and working throughout the region.

Immigrants made up more than 11% of Gainesville’s population in 2019 and nearly a quarter of the area’s total population growth over the previous five years, according to census data cited in the GINI report. Immigrants are responsible for one in five new local businesses and account for about 14 percent of Alachua County’s purchasing power, according to the report.

In 2016, Gainesville and Alachua County Commissioners passed resolutions to become the first city and among the first counties in Florida to join the Welcoming America Network municipalities. The non-profit group Welcoming Gainesville and Alachua County was subsequently formed to organize events and programs to better include foreign-born residents in community life.

Crowds gather for Immigrant Rights Day at a rally at Bo Diddley Plaza in Gainesville in 2017.

But on Easter Sunday 2018, the Gainesville Police Department’s response to a domestic violence call showed that work needed to be done to make our community safe and inclusive for immigrants. GPD came under fire after announcing that the victim and witnesses were going be reported to federal immigration officials because they were believed to be undocumented.

Building trust between immigrant communities and law enforcement is critical to ensuring foreign-born residents feel comfortable reporting crimes to the police, which leads to a safer community. The GINI report recommends prohibiting residents from being questioned about their immigration status unless required by law and creating documents on victims’ rights and resources in the five main languages ​​spoken in the region.

City Commissioners of Gainesville already voted on at a recent meeting to move forward with a program to better connect non-English speaking residents to all types of government services. The program would include a translation hotline, the translation of most city documents and bilingual signs, starting with Spanish and eventually Mandarin Chinese and other languages.

The GINI report also recommends hiring immigrant liaison officers within the city, county, and school district to work on language access efforts and other practices that increase immigrant safety and engagement. civic. He asks the school district to increase the number of classes teaching English to speakers of other languages, in order to better serve a growing number of immigrant students.

More opinion pieces on the GINI initiative:

Make Gainesville a more inclusive community

Linguistic justice means participation, health and safety

Community-city partnership aims to improve immigrant safety in Gainesville

Linguistic inclusion: one more facet of good neighborliness

Other recommendations include the provision and better advertising of English language learning programs for adults, as well as civic education classes for new citizens and other residents. The report also recommends reducing language barriers and other barriers preventing foreign-born residents from accessing health care.

While some state and national politicians have indulged in immigrant grandstanding in recent years, the county commissioners of Gainesville and Alachua have distinguished themselves by pushing our community to be more welcoming. But it is not enough to declare that Gainesville is a welcoming community.

Members of the GINI Initiative have developed a thoughtful set of recommendations that would help make our community more inclusive for immigrants. Gainesville should continue to roll out the welcome mat for immigrants, while making the necessary changes to ensure foreign-born residents are fully able to participate in community life.

– The Editorial Board of Gainesville Sun

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