Building Immigrant-friendly Cities
A Guide for City Leaders
There are many reasons why we should welcome immigrants, from a morality standpoint to proven economic benefit. Yet as the federal government takes an increasingly hostile stance on immigration, in particular over the last 30 years, immigrant communities have become more vulnerable than ever. With the notable absence of any comprehensive national policy, cities must develop their own tools, policies and programs to address the influx of immigrants. Municipalities across the U.S. have to address on a daily basis a myriad of issues related to immigrants, who are overwhelmingly concentrated in metropolitan areas.*
This report aims to help elected officials, policy-makers, activists, and community-based organizations advocate for, design, and implement progressive policies toward immigrants at the city level. In summary, this report makes the following recommendations:
- Center your city’s immigrant population in policymaking.
- Do not participate in the enforcement of federal civil immigration law.
- Support immigrant communities with words and actions, create and implement plans to be immigrant-friendly.
- Offer supportive services, such as an Office of Immigrant Affairs.
- Ensure language access to all local government services.
- Protect low wage workers, who are disproportionately immigrants, and support entrepreneurs and local small businesses, as immigrants are more likely to start business.
- Improve access to the banking system and provide financial education.
- Provide legal aid or advice on immigration status and citizenship issues.
* Audrey Singer, “Immigrants in 2010 Metropolitan America: A Decade of Change,” Brookings Institute, October 24, 2011, https://www.brookings.edu/on-the-record/immigrants-in-2010-metropolitan-america-a-decade-of-change/.