City of Charlotte: Office of Equity, Mobility and Immigrant Integration

In 2000, in one of the most populous cities in North Carolina, immigrants represented just 1 percent of Charlotte’s population. However, between 2012 and 2017, the immigrant population grew by 21.7 percent, according to data by New Americans Economy. Charlotte welcomed this growth of newcomers and in June 2019, became the first city in the United States to sign an immigration impact. That same year, the Office of Equity, Mobility, and Immigrant Integration, or EMII, was formed to address local and systemic obstacles limiting opportunities for the city’s most vulnerable communities.

Since its inception, EMII has hosted a series of public community listening sessions with the Immigrant Community Committee. The committee brings together members of the community to listen and discuss challenges and barriers that impact immigrants, while collaborating on strategies and actionable solutions. Residents want to engage and work through issues affecting the community, said Emily Yaffe, an immigrant integration specialist with EMII. “When people feel at home, they want to give back,” Yaffe said. Within a three-week timespan, EMII hosted eight community conversations, including seven resident engagement opportunities, one business owner engagement and one visit to immigration court followed by a panel discussion with immigration attorneys. The meetings were live-streamed with language translation available and — through the various engagements — EMII brought together over 450 residents.

EMII works closely with nonprofits and members of the community to implement the recommendations outlined by the Immigrant Community Committee. Several recommendations include improving and increasing language access, publishing a statement of support for immigrants, creating a legal defense fund and reducing fear as well as establishing trust with local law enforcement. To implement the recommendations, the committee relied on the support of local nonprofits and city-led initiatives.

For example, the United Way of Central Carolinas expressed interest in helping through establishing leadership development opportunities for rising immigrant leaders. Secondly, the Foundation for the Carolinas provided additional funding to the Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy to address the needs of the immigrant community. Moreover, committee members met with local general contractors to discuss opportunities of support to nonprofits. During this meeting, general contractors had a chance to learn more about the Minority Women Small Business Enterprise and Disadvantages Business Enterprise opportunities to small business owners. Lastly, Charlotte EAST, a nonprofit advocacy board wrote a statement of support for Charlotte’s immigrant communities. Nonprofits and community-based organizations have served as a bridge between newcomers and city officials, as newcomers are often wary of government entities.

EMII is also looking to making changes internally to strengthen the relationship between city officials and their immigrant neighbors. EMII hopes to implement the Language Access Plan. This plan would require all city offices and departments to offer services, information and resources in languages other than English. It would also ensure that information is written in plain language for easier and quicker comprehension. In addition to the Language Access Plan, city offices continue to employ and recruit multi-lingual staff. The city intends to continue to convene naturalization providers as well as work closely with the public library system to collect information and post updates on the public library’s webpage. Lastly, the city looks forward to hosting community events on know your rights and is creating an H-1B hiring program for positions that have been hard to fill. “It’s important to incorporate [the community] into the services. It is the city’s job to have the community thrive and offer resources. As well as ensure that services reach the people its intended for,” said Yaffe.

For city officials looking to collaborate with local nonprofits, Yaffe suggested, “Think early on about building that trust with local nonprofits and compensate them for their partnership, support and assistance with the community”.

CLINIC applauds the City of Charlotte, the Office of Equity, Mobility and Immigrant Integration, and partners for their efforts to promote immigrant integration and a welcoming community for all. Learn more about the Office of Equity, Mobility, and Immigrant Integration.

Stay tuned for next month’s city profile. In the meantime, share with CLINIC how your agency works with city officials to promote immigrant integration!