The Mayor’s Office of New Americans was awarded technical assistance in 2015 from the Gateways for Growth Challenge support the development of multi-sector plans for welcoming and integrating immigrants into local communities.
In 2012, Nashville had the fastest-growing immigrant population of any city in the United States. Given our rapidly growing population, it is critical that Nashville embraces a strategic and sustainable approach to welcoming and integrating New Americans in all parts of our community. The Mayor’s vision for this project was to create a leadership development pipeline for young New Americans who would lead the beginning stages of a strategic plan process that solidifies Nashville’s identity as a welcoming community where all residents can thrive, regardless of where they were born or what language they speak.
A group of New American young leaders from community non-profits’ programs were recruited for the project based on their community involvement and diverse backgrounds to become Immigrant Integration Fellows (IIFs), who were thoroughly trained on strategic planning, interviewing, research and analysis, and writing in preparation for conducting over 50 interviews with community members from different sectors on perspectives of New Americans in Nashville. This process was a follow up to the interviews conducted in 2016 by the Nashville Chamber of Commerce and Welcoming America for the Welcoming Nashville: Perspectives and Trends report.
The responses were compiled and the following five major themes were identified as significant issues faced by New Americans according to the interviewees:
After this process, a group of adult leaders from different sectors joined the IIFs in order to create a taskforce that met regularly to discuss and distill the responses and themes, while bringing their own experiences and those of their clients into the mix; hence creating a well-rounded base of knowledge to frame recommendations for this multi-sector welcoming plan.
These recommendations are to be used by the Mayor’s Office of New Americans as a guide for their work, whether in Metro Government or in partnership with representatives across sectors to ensure all New Americans have true access to the services and opportunities that all residents of Nashville should have.
Highlights of Recommendations
- Improve immigrant access to city services and increase immigrant participation in civic life
- Increase representation of New Americans as key stakeholders in Metro Government processes
- Increase rates of naturalization and voter registration
- Establish ethnic media roundtable meetings
Safe and Connected Communities
- Foster trust and build relationships between immigrants and law enforcement and the criminal justice system to promote public safety and increase access to justice
- Ensure police officers are well-equipped to work with and in immigrant communities
- Fund, build, preserve and maintain affordable housing options with a goal of preventing displacement of immigrant neighborhood and supportive communities created around them
- Create a housing resource guide for all Nashville residents that would be helpful to New Americans, or any new resident moving to town
Education and Economic Development
- Work to ensure that newcomers have the skills, training, and education to thrive
- Help bridge gaps between potential employers and qualified individuals
- Ensure true access to economic development systems (entrepreneurial activities, minority and women owned business programs, etc.) by creating awareness, promoting, and connecting providers with interested community members
- Expand and continue responsive development of post-secondary educational opportunities (like Nashville State Community College’s Medical Interpreter program) by fostering public-private partnerships in which employers help drive and fund educational programs that directly meet their employment needs
- Create awareness of services and providers available to New Americans
- Facilitate the process to bridge communication gaps between providers and residents