The Society for the
Study of Social Issues

Event report: Stronger Together, Community Integration of Newcomers

23 September 2011

This event at the Center for American Progress (CAP) was held as CAP released its new report, All Immigration Is Local: Receiving Communities and Their Role in Successful Immigrant. The report was the result of discussion among academics, policymakers, and advocates across North America, including SPSSI member Vicki Esses, University of Western Ontario.

David Lubell, Executive Director, Welcoming America said that negative attitudes toward immigrants in the U.S. need to be kept in perspective as much of the good news is simply not seen. 99% of the community will be doing something right but their stories aren’t necessarily being heard. Where stereotypes and prejudice are problems, it is often because there is little interaction between immigrants and non-immigrants, leading to misunderstanding. In the states where anti-immigrant bills are being raised Welcoming America is looking at promoting more positive attitudes. Its theory of change is to have a conversation with a non-profit then they can apply to be an affiliate and then invitation can be shared between all the members. However, there need to be more resources in this kind of work. Corporations, foundations, and the government can all do this. David  urged the use of messages which are truly unifying not dividing. Billboards are popular in their communities because they often aren’t that expensive. Many people see them and they create lots of discussion and buzz. They have also done radio adverts, and used social media websites.

Laurent Gilbert, Mayor, City of Lewiston, Maine said that the area of Lewiston has many Somalis, Sudanese, and Eritreans and it is important to interact with them on their own terms to show that they are important to you. It’s important that law enforcement officers reach out to members of the community. Laurent advocated for a refugee-immigrant liaison officer. The government’s stimulus plan got them two community resource officers who work in the neighborhood. Children come in to see the officers who will help with their homework or play basketball with them. It’s important for churches to also be involved. Last week the city had a representative from Welcome America, and we need to work with other organizations more often to make the country a more welcoming community. On many occasions, immigrant groups have to do the hard work all on their own. The Somali community has formed the Many and One Coalition for rallies that outnumbered the white-supremacist group. Economically it is clear that many of these groups have taken over empty buildings and set up thriving businesses. They are circulating dollars and adding to the community economically.

It is important to integrate because it is good for our quality of life. In a recent conference with people from all over the world, the thing that stood out was the importance of quality of life. Its important for police chiefs and mayors to send these kinds of messages.

Michael Byun, Executive Director, Asian Services In Action, Inc said that Ohio, where he is based, is a new destination for immigrants particularly from Bhutan and Burma. There is a need for dialogue between the newcomers and the current residents. One of the most effective forms of public communication and advocacy has been to frame messages about immigrant-host relations as a win-win situation. The economy is suffering and the entrants are setting up new businesses. Notably, some of them have caused a physical transformation in Cleveland within the Chinatown area. They have found recently that the local community that in addition to national media it has been very effective to use local papers and radio.

A webcast of the event can be viewed at


Alex Ingrams
SPSSI Policy Coordinator

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Research that produces nothing but books will not suffice.
                                                                                                                    - Kurt Lewin