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Nov 2016

Immigration at the Local Level – A look at some 2016 examples

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Do you think of immigration only as a national and international issue? Unless you live along one of the United States’ borders, perhaps you think that immigration is not that important for your state, town, or city. This isn’t surprising. Immigration almost always comes up during presidential and congressional elections, like it did during the 2016 election. Its no wonder if you think of immigration only in those terms.

From concerns regarding the protection of the United States’ borders to the impact of immigration on the availability of jobs, its easy to see why the issue is so crucial at the highest levels of government. Yet  is a local issue too! From the impact of new immigrant groups upon an area to the encouragement of diversity in dense populations, city and county governments continually address immigration in their day to day work. Keep reading to see how some of the local governments from the Voterheads database tackled issues related to immigration last month.

congress photoLocal governments often have to deal with the consequences of laws passed at the federal level, especially when it comes to immigration. They are the ones to see the direct impact on individuals, so they often serve as helpful watchdogs in terms of how laws play out. Relatedly, the city of Philadelphia recently considered a resolution to Congress that urged the rectification of the injustices resulting from the 1996 federal immigration laws. The resolution argued that the statutes did not provide due process to immigrants, and asked Congress to end such practices as automatic deportation and mass detention. The resolution contends that these actions deny basic human rights to those immigrants coming into the United States. Philadelphia’s City Council passed the measure on October 13, 2016, and sent the resolution to Congress for its consideration. Now it is up to Congress to decide when and if to implement these changes.

public hearing photo

Photo by AHTD

City and county governments are also concerned about the manner in which local businesses interact with immigrant populations, especially those that just moved into the neighborhood. Realizing that recent immigrants might not know a lot about their new home, governments strive to protect them from being taken advantage of by businesses. An example of this is the Washington D.C. City Council bill called the “Immigration Services Protection Act of 2016,” reviewed at an October 17th public hearing. The proposed law seeks to reduce the negative impacts of services conducted by agencies and organizations that cater to immigrant populations within the Washington area. Many of these organizations offer legal guidance and collect personal documents from immigrants, even though they may not be trained or licensed to do so. The agencies also often charge fees before services have been provided, and hold on to personal documents, making it difficult for immigrants to use them for other purposes. During the public hearing, a representative from the Council for Court Excellence stated that nearly 30 other states in the country have similar laws, hoping to encourage D.C. to follow their lead. Since the hearing, D.C.’s Judiciary Committee continued considering the bill by editing and filing a report about it. The bill is currently listed as “under Council review,” so we have to wait and see if D.C. will put the law into action.

welcome photo

Photo by WaywardShinobi

Finally, local governments must deal with the impacts of new immigrant groups moving into their communities. In order to make such transitions better for everyone involved, cities and counties create programs to help immigrants feel welcome and become accustomed to their new surroundings. Governments often work with local organizations and non-profits to implement these programs so that all of the effort does not fall on the government’s shoulders. As a part of such efforts, the Los Angeles City Council recently accepted an $80,000 grant from Southern California Grantmakers for next year’s immigrant integration programs. The grant provides funds to implement a “county-wide community education and outreach campaign to disseminate information regarding immigrant integration programs.” The grant will fund many aspects of this campaign including the use of city personnel and resources that might otherwise be unavailable, coordination between city and county level governments, direct implementation of the integration programs, and facilitation of efforts with relevant non-profit entities. The Council’s action allowed the mayor’s office to accept the award and administer it appropriately so that immigrants feel at home as quickly as possible in the city of Los Angeles.

These three examples prove how immigration can have an impact on local communities and the governments that support them, no matter where they are located. If you are interested in knowing if and when your local government considers issues related to immigration, be sure to add it as a topic to your Voterheads account!

Featured Photo by kevinzim

Maria McCollester on EmailMaria McCollester on Linkedin
Maria McCollester
Maria McCollester
Politcal Scientist at Voterheads
Maria is an American government professional and scholar seeking to apply research and writing skills to the development of public policy. She recently received her Ph.D. from Boston College where she's won some seriously cool awards (See her LinkedIn profile).

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Maria is an American government professional and scholar seeking to apply research and writing skills to the development of public policy. She recently received her Ph.D. from Boston College where she's won some seriously cool awards (See her LinkedIn profile).


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