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Congress of cities workshop to focus on immigrant integration.

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. Natural Helpers are bilingual volunteers who provide new immigrant residents with one-on-one support and typically have first-hand experience integrating into a new community.

These volunteers assist new immigrant residents with information about addressing basic needs such as health care, housing, employment, education and transportation. In addition to this core volunteer-based program, the center also assists other community organizations by collecting information about the needs of the immigrant community and obstacles to accessing services.

Prior to joining NLC, Gambetta was the director of Latino affairs for the City of Indianapolis, where he focused on municipal immigrant integration programs. Gambetta will provide an overview of the MAII project, which is designed to help local officials and community organizations develop plans for managing immigrant integration challenges in their communities.

In light of the lack of federal immigration reform, many municipal leaders have taken an active role in addressing immigrant integration issues, a pressing concern for the many new and emerging immigrant gateway communities. Community organizations and local officials will be able to obtain technical assistance from MAII to create a space for civic participation across all parts of their communities and participate in a knowledge-sharing network facilitated by MAII. By learning about what has been done in other cities to effectively maximize the benefits of immigration and assist newcomers, local officials will be better positioned to determine what kinds of activities can be best implemented in their own communities.

Details: "Building One Community: Tools for Immigrant Integration" will be held from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. on November 13. For more information about the workshop or the Municipal Action for Immigrant Integration project, contact Jamie Durana at durana@nlc.org.
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Title Annotation:National League of Cities
Author:Durana, Jamie
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Article Type:Conference news
Geographic Code:1U5FL
Date:Oct 20, 2008
Words:551
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