Three ways to succeed in an immigrant-inclusive emergency response and recovery

This is a guest post from our partner, Welcoming America.

Welcoming America offers the following ideas for actively involving new Americans in your community’s response to the pandemic. These ideas draw on a decade of work in belonging and inclusion, and emerging approaches from our network of 200 nonprofit and local government members.

1. Incorporate new Americans in equitable access and inclusive emergency management

A successful public health response means ensuring all residents are informed, engaged, and participating in the solutions, particularly those who may be most at risk or isolated from mainstream society. This means prioritizing residents whose race, language, status or ZIP code may impact their ability to actively participate in the community-wide response.

In Baltimore, MD, Mayor Bernard Young’s Office of Immigrant Affairs is translating information in multiple languages and partnering with local radio stations to broadcast information on timely topics, such as schools and childcare, food assistance, and health.   

In Louisville, KY, Mayor Greg Fischer’s Office of Globalization is translating resources and putting them in easy-to-understand language for immigrant residents and business owners, including serving as a bridge to connect the Small Business Center with immigrant-owned businesses.

Many local governments are also turning to vital community partners – for instance, the University YMCA in Champaign-Urbana, IL, or refugee-serving organizations in small towns like Garden City, KS  –  to ensure a whole-of-community response.

Welcoming Pittsburgh Advisory Council. Credit: Welcoming America.

2. Invite the participation of new leaders and the contributions that new Americans can make to response and recovery

New Americans are already at the front lines in critical professions, but fully tapping and celebrating everyone’s contributions is crucial for our long-term success in overcoming and recovering from the pandemic.

One way to start is by ensuring new American leaders are at the table for emergency planning and response efforts, as Salt Lake County has undertaken. Programs like the

Natural Helpers model—now active in eight U.S. cities from Portland, ME to Indianapolis, IN to Aurora, CO—show how widening leadership can support a larger scale response. 

3. Invest now: stronger social cohesion will make your community more resilient now and for the challenges ahead

Social cohesion is the capacity of a community to ensure the well-being of all its members by creating a sense of belonging, promoting trust, working to eliminate disparities and promote equity, and fostering opportunity for all. When communities experience demographic change, intentional efforts to promote social cohesion become all the more important.

Social cohesion is also a critical factor for resilience in the face of disaster—and it can be shaped.

Welcoming communities work to build social cohesion and greater resilience by systematically reducing barriers and connecting neighbors, while also tackling bias and xenophobia. Says Mayor Ethan Berkowitz of Anchorage, AK: “There is a direct causation between welcoming and resilience. Welcoming communities create a sense of belonging; the more people belong, the more they contribute, and together, weave strong, flourishing communities.”

Welcoming America offers coaching, funding, and other tools for local government and nonprofit members. If you’d like to learn more, please visit our COVID-19 resource page or reach out to us directly so that we can support your efforts.