The County Voice

ILG Supports Counties in Engaging Diverse Communities

There are many ways to measure “diversity” but California consistently ranks as one of, if not the most diverse state in the nation—with literally dozens of ethnicities represented in the population. While this is more apparent in some parts of the state than others, local governments should consider the ethnic and cultural diversity of their communities when they are planning and implementing public outreach and engagement efforts. The Institute for Local Government, partially sponsored by CSAC, has information and tools that can make this easier, and we recently presented some of them at a convening in the Bay Area. Two Bay Area counties served as models.

From 2010 – 2015, 43 percent of the overall population growth in San Mateo County came from immigrants. In Santa Clara County, the percentage was higher at 46 percent. Between the two counties, immigrants contributed almost $3.8 billion in state and local taxes in 2015. Statewide, immigrants contribute $715 billion — or roughly one third — of California’s gross domestic product each year.

This economic data and more was recently shared by New American Economy at the Institute for Local Government’s Immigrant Engagement and Integration Multi-sector Bay Area Convening. As the data indicates, immigrants represent a significant portion of our population and contribute to our economic well-being – this underscores the importance of inclusive public engagement activities. To learn more about the vital roles that immigrants play in our communities and opportunities to better engage them, over 100 local and non-profit leaders and immigrant integration experts attended ILG’s convening in September.

Key themes throughout the day included the importance of partnering across the Bay Area to support California’s immigrant communities as well as the key role local governments serve in supporting this work. Participants identified the following key roles for local governments:

  • Continue to build trust by engaging “beyond the usuals” including immigrant and refugee community members
  • Lead, convene and facilitate community conversations on legal processes including naturalization and ‘know your rights’ workshops
  • Fund immigrant integration services
  • Connect immigrant and refugee residents to relevant public sector agencies and services

The convening also showcased the Institute’s Immigrant Integration Sub-Regional Incubators, a small group, peer-learning network for participating jurisdictions, including San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties, to dive deeper on specific immigrant integration challenges. For San Mateo County, the incubator supported its Office of Immigrant Support and Coordination (OISC) to provide more accessible and inclusive services to its immigrant community. Specifically, incubator participant OISC Program Coordinator Jasmine Hartenstein was able to gain knowledge, resources and support around topics such as language access and culturally competent and responsive local governments. This enhanced her efforts in drafting a resolution for a language access policy that was adopted in 2017 by the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors. 

“San Mateo County is dedicated to providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for all our residents through the Office of Immigrant Support and Coordination,” says Jasmine. “The Institute’s resources and technical assistance has helped to support and enhance the office’s efforts since its launch in 2015. Apart from technical assistance, the incubator project gave me access to another support system where I could address challenges and receive feedback on specific ideas from a group who faced similar challenges.”

For Santa Clara County, the incubator not only informed the efforts of the County’s Office of Immigrant Relations, but their efforts also informed the incubator. Santa Clara County served as a resource to other participating jurisdictions by sharing the work they have accomplished around language access and cultural competency.

“The incubator provided a peer learning space for jurisdictions to discuss immigrant integration, no matter where each of us were starting from or how far along we were,” says Maria Love, Director of the Santa Clara County Office of Immigrant Relations. “It also served as a way to share best practices to determine what worked and what didn’t in Santa Clara County’s efforts to help others avoid reinventing the wheel.”

ILG’s Immigrant Integration Project and Resources

The convening and incubators are part of the Institute’s Bay Area Regional Immigrant Integration Project to build stronger, more inclusive communities through immigrant integration and engagement. Please click here to learn more or to access our resources.

Share Your Engagement Efforts with Us!

Has your county used an innovative and effective approach to engage immigrants in your community? Contact Hang Tran at htran@ca-ilg.org to share your story with ILG.

ILG is a proud affiliate of CSAC. ILG promotes good government at the local level by providing trainings, webinars, workshops, technical assistance and online and print resources for counties across the state on a variety of topics including: governance and leadership, public engagement, ethics and transparency, collaboration and partnerships, and sustainable communities.

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