Co-Authors: Rich André, Asma Easa, Micaela McConnell, Paloma Ramos

Last week, communities across the United States participated in Welcoming America’s Welcoming Week. The annual campaign has rapidly expanded over the years to include more than 650 local events that showcase each community’s commitment to fostering welcoming and belonging for all their residents, including their immigrant neighbors. Since its inception in 2012, Welcoming Week has concluded on Citizenship Day, September 17. This year, with more than 130 naturalization ceremonies across the nation, over 6,900 individuals became new U.S. citizens. 

Although conversations about immigration often focus on federal issues, many local governments, chambers of commerce, and nonprofits are committed to celebrating their immigrant neighbors and the positive effects of immigration, such as population growth, spurred innovation, and the revitalization of neighborhoods. Welcoming Week is a moment each year that captures and highlights these commitments at the local level, with events celebrating culture and diversity intertwined with community-led action to build infrastructure and policies that offer opportunities for every resident to thrive. 

To celebrate this year’s Welcoming Week, the Grand Rapids Chamber—building upon the Welcome Plan for Kent County that was launched in 2020—released an updated research report, in collaboration with the Council, and presented it to business leaders in the region. The report is part of an initiative to drive economic prosperity for the region through immigration. The community looks to continue investing in opportunities that attract and retain immigrant talent in the region by better understanding the immigrant population, their contributions, and the challenges they face. Additionally, the Grand Rapids Chamber recently relaunched the Michigan Compact on Immigration to re-engage efforts on immigration reform and immigration advocacy at the state and national level. The chamber will lead conversations with the business community to create a unified voice about the importance of immigration to the state and the opportunities it offers to the local workforce.  

Another way that communities have demonstrated their commitment to ensuring that all their neighbors feel connected is through participation in the Gateways for Growth Challenge (G4G), which helps local leaders facilitate local immigrant inclusion through tailored research reports and technical assistance to develop a multi-sector strategic welcoming plan. To date, nearly 80 communities across the U.S.—from Anchorage, Alaska and Austin, Minnesota, to Fargo, North Dakota and San Antonio, Texas— have benefitted from investing, celebrating, and uplifting the many social and economic contributions immigrants make to their communities.  

This year, ten communities received G4G awards as part of the program’s fifth cohort. During Welcoming Week, several communities launched their tailored research reports and held events to present data on the demographics and socioeconomic contributions of immigrants and refugees to their community and how this information can be used as a tool to support conversations about the importance of immigration.  

  • In Fort Wayne, Indiana, community organizations hosted multiple Welcoming Week events alongside the launch of their G4G report. Events included an opportunity for the community to grade Fort Wayne’s welcoming programs and policies as part of an “Immigration Report Card,” a panel discussion on inclusive workforce development during Greater Fort Wayne Inc.’s annual Economic Development Summit, and the annual Welcoming Fort Wayne Awards. The Community Foundation of Greater Fort Wayne granted over $200,000 to support the ongoing work of the Welcoming Fort Wayne Initiative. 
  • In Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, their G4G report looking at immigrant contributions to the city and Allegheny County was launched at an event hosted by the City of Pittsburgh and their Welcoming Pittsburgh initiative and the city’s Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs. Government, non-profit and business leaders working with and for immigrant communities were in attendance.  
  • In Santa Clara County, California, their G4G report release was one part of a multi-event Welcoming Week and the county plans to utilize the report as they continue to work to support the needs of their residents. 

Although Welcoming Week 2023 has come to a close, communities work tirelessly year-round to develop and execute concrete strategies that ensure all residents have access to the tools and support they need to succeed and contribute to their communities.