Six years ago, the Dallas City Council passed a resolution to make the city more welcoming for immigrants and long-time residents alike. The city council proposed policy recommendations to address the unprecedented challenges immigrants and refugees in the Texas city face. Alongside the resolution, the city, in collaboration with multisector stakeholders, launched the Welcoming Dallas Strategic Plan, a plan for civic, economic, linguistic, and social integration and inclusion. Since the plan was launched in 2018, Dallas has invested in advancing these recommendations and has completed more than 80% of the specific recommendations.

Now, in 2024, just seven years after Dallas established the Office of Welcoming Communities and Immigrant Affairs (WCIA), the city continues to demonstrate how local communities can take the lead to ensure that all residents thrive, even in the face of federal inaction and harmful state policies. In April, nearly 800 community leaders gathered from across the world for the national nonprofit Welcoming America’s Welcoming Interactive in Dallas to discuss inclusion strategies. The annual conference convenes leaders from nonprofits, state and local governments, the business community, and other sectors to share new ideas, best practices, and innovations for how communities are fostering welcoming spaces for all their residents.

The American Immigration Council’s State and Local Initiatives team traveled to Texas to participate in the Interactive. The team had a chance to celebrate the launch of new data highlighting the contributions of immigrants in Dallas and join other conference attendees on community tours. This allowed attendees to see firsthand how the local government and community-based organizations have built programs and implemented recommendations from its strategic welcoming plan to cultivate a more equitable community in arts, community planning, remembering history, and much more.

Kicking things off at the event’s first plenary session, Dirk Nowitzki—a basketball hall-of-famer with the Dallas Mavericks and German immigrant—set the tone for the conference. He shared how, “The City of Dallas, the people of Dallas were wonderful to me from the beginning. It’s almost like they wanted me to feel welcomed, they wanted me to succeed. Further down my career, I wanted to pay that loyalty back that I received.”

Sessions covering language access and refugee resettlement followed. Community leaders put forth challenges their community faces alongside research models, best practices, and innovative ideas to cultivate connecting spaces that allowed for new ideas and opportunities for collaboration.

On the last day of the conference, the State and Local team got an early morning start with Welcoming America and 25 community leaders from communities like Columbus, Salt Lake, and New Orleans for a Gateways for Growth breakfast meet-up.

Gateways for Growth is a competitive opportunity for localities to receive research support and technical assistance from the Council and Welcoming America to improve immigrant inclusion in their communities. Alumni and current participants of the Gateways for Growth Challenge shared updates from their communities and connected with colleagues in the ever-growing network.

State and Local Director, Rich André, moderated a discussion during the final day’s morning plenary session. The discussion, titled “Build Resilience with Inclusion,” featured Kit Taintor (World Education Services) and Krystal Reyes (City of Tulsa, Oklahoma), who discussed how their communities have approached creating robust financial empowerment alongside economic opportunity and inclusion for immigrants to advance shared prosperity for all, as well as embracing increased migration, especially in cities in need of population growth.

As attendees returned home to continue their efforts to welcome newcomers, especially amidst an election year where immigration has taken center stage, they can look forward to May 2025 when next year’s Welcoming Interactive will take place in Detroit, Michigan, hosted in partnership with Global Detroit and the City of Detroit Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs.

Regardless of the lack of federal funding, federal inaction, and anti-immigrant policies that surface, one thing is certain: Localities continue to lead and prioritize welcoming work. They have demonstrated their commitment time and time again to making their communities more welcoming for all residents and continue to bring to the forefront innovative ideas that help strengthen and revitalize neighborhoods, states, and the nation as a whole. A nation—as the timeless saying reminds us—that was founded by immigrants.