Making Greensboro Feel Like Home For Everyone
Some residents in one part of the Triad want their community to be a new beginning for immigrants.
In April, the Greensboro City Council unanimously passed a resolution making Greensboro a 'Welcoming City" to immigrants and refugees. According to a 2012 American Community Survey, there are more than 35,400 foreign born people living in Guilford County.Lori Khamala, the director of The American Friends Service Committee, says since last year, the group along with the Welcoming Greensboro Committee have hosted community conversations with immigrant groups representing around 23 countries. Khamala describes what these families say they need.“The quality and number of interpreters is a really big issue. Access to transportation was one of the big things we heard repeatedly. There was one mother who shared she would like to participate more in her child’s education but there’s no bus that goes from her home to the school," explains Khamala.
In the Guilford County school system, 140 countries are represented and an estimated 120 languages are spoken. "We heard repeatedly that immigrants are facing discrimination based not only on race and ethnicity but also on language access and just being perceived they come from a different country.”
Thursday at the Government Plaza in Greensboro, the two groups released a 50 page report summarizing the concerns of area immigrants. It also included suggestions of how Greensboro can better support these newcomers. They include adding more city buses and routes, encouraging cultural competency training, promoting immigrant and refugee representation on city boards and commissions and creating cultural centers with information in multiple languages.
Khamala says the groups have presented this report to Greensboro city leaders. She also believes there are long-term benefits for the city and state-wide if some of the recommendations are initiated. "Across North Carolina, immigrants represent about 1 in 10 workers and 1 in 10 business owners. They also account for over 8 percent or close to $11 billion of the state’s yearly economic output, according to the North Carolina Justice Center," says Khamala. "So we see immigrants in our community as economic contributors, as tax payers. This is making our communities stronger.”
Greensboro is one of 30 cities nationwide taking on the challenge of doing more for its immigrant population. The cities plan to exchange ideas on how to accomplish various goals.