Congress of Cities Workshop to Focus on Immigrant Integration

Article excerpt

NLC's Municipal Action for Immigrant Integration (MAII) project will hold a workshop, "Building One Community: Tools for Immigrant Integration," during the Congress of Cities and Exposition in Orlando, Fla. The workshop will explore the new project and examples of local immigrant integration initiatives.

Speakers for the panel discussion include Susan Thornton, former mayor of Littleton, Colo., and chair of the Littleton Immigrant Integration Initiative board; Terri Morris Downs, executive director of the Immigrant Welcome Center in Indianapolis and former special assistant to former Mayor Bart Peterson; and Ricardo Gambetta, project manager for NLC's Inclusive Communities and Immigrant Integration Programs.

Thornton's work with the Littleton Immigrant Integration Initiative gives her insight into the challenges that new immigrant gateway communities face. Between 1980 and 2000, the number of foreign-born residents in Littleton increased from about 3 percent to roughly 13 percent. The initiative was developed in response to this dramatic shift and is staffed by volunteers, including public school staff, health care workers and other Littleton residents.

Among the initiative's several programs are the One-Stop Information Center and the Citizenship Mentoring Program. The One-Stop Information Center provides immigrant residents in Littleton with a resource on various aspects of everyday life in the city, including information about school enrollment and transportation. The Citizenship Mentoring Program is based around volunteer tutors who are matched with immigrant residents who are preparing to take the U.S. Citizenship Test.

As executive director of the Immigrant Welcome Center in Indianapolis, Downs oversees a successful mentoring program called Natural Helpers. The Natural Helpers community outreach endeavor got underway in 2007 and represents an important resource provided by the center. …