AUGUST 3, 2016 – The City of Houston Office of International Communities, Neighborhood Centers and the Houston Immigration Legal Services Collaborative 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 Welcoming America, a national nonprofit organization with expertise in local innovations that advance civic, economic and linguistic integration.
Immigrant Integration Strategic Plan
The Welcoming Houston initiative 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.
“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.”
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.
The strategic plan will be presented to Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner as part of Citizenship Month in November. Implementation of the recommendations will be the responsibility all of the involved stakeholders.
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.
The initiative will be informed by a recent report published by NAE revealing that Houston’s foreign-born population has grown 17% from 2009 to 2014 – accounting for 34% of the overall population growth in the region. Foreign-born residents contributed $116.5 billion to the region’s GDP and held $31.8 billion in spending power in 2014. While the foreign-born make up one-quarter of the overall-population, they are 32% of the employed labor force and 42% of the self-employed labor force. Foreign-born residents in Houston are twice as likely to own their own businesses than their U.S.-born counterparts. Welcoming Cities demonstrate their commitment to ensuring the inclusion and long-term economic integration of newcomers.
The launch of Welcoming Houston also 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. A statewide report on the economic contributions of immigrants in Texas was released as part of the Reason for Reform campaign.