With more than 800,000 individuals throughout the region, one in four San Diego County residents is an immigrant.
“Immigrants from around the globe help define our city. San Diego has long been a destination for people in search of opportunity, refugees looking to rebuild their lives, and new citizens who are proud to call America home,” Faulconer said.
“San Diego’s economy, workforce and future growth are connected to our ability to welcome new Americans into our community. This has been a community-driven process, and I want to thank the civic, business, educational and nonprofit organizations for preparing this document and presenting it to the public.”
At the news conference at the New Americans Museum in Liberty Station, Faulconer also announced that his mid-year budget proposal includes the City of San Diego’s first immigrant affairs manager. The position will review the plan’s proposals, guide new policies forward and facilitate the successful integration of immigrants, refugees and new citizens in San Diego.
“I’m proud to stand along with many community leaders and organizations of our region to release a blueprint for Welcoming San Diego Strategic Plan on Immigrant & Refugee Integration,” Gómez said. “It’s important our communities here in San Diego know they don’t stand alone. Our policies and actions must reflect a city that is welcoming. I look forward to working with the mayor and my colleagues to help implement the plan.”
In 2016, San Diego County immigrant households contributed $7.5 billion in federal taxes, $2.1 billion in state and local taxes, and leveraged $16.3 billion in spending power. Immigrant entrepreneurs generated $1.4 billion in business income for the region. The top five countries of origin for immigrants in San Diego County are Mexico, Philippines, Vietnam, China and Iraq.
The committee and partner organizations collaborated on the project with a vision of ensuring new Americans can participate in civic life, access public resources and contribute their skills in a meaningful way. With a recognition that immigrants are key to San Diego’s regional economy, the strategic plan presents ideas on how regional institutions can encourage a more connected community.
The long-term plan was created with input from hundreds of residents, dozens of organizations and businesses, and a cross-sector steering committee covering five topic areas: economic opportunity, education, inclusive access, civic engagement and safe communities. The committee studied strategic plans, immigrant affairs offices and best practices in peer cities across the nation.
“Immigrants play an important role in the strength, diversity and resiliency of our local workforce,” said Jerry Sanders, president and CEO of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce. “By putting this new plan into action, we can stabilize the workforce, increase employee retention and improve employee performance which will raise our region’s profile and help attract more foreign direct investment, innovation and entrepreneurship. And that benefits all San Diegans.”
“This report is a great example of our city working with affected community members to find ways to better integrate immigrant and refugees so that we can continue to be a region that embraces all people, regardless of where they come from,” said Lilian Serrano, Chair of the San Diego Immigrant Rights Consortium. “We look forward to the city’s continued commitment to fully implement this plan.”
The Welcoming San Diego effort, launched at a kickoff summit in February 2018, was supported by the Gateways for Growth grant from New American Economy and Welcoming America and matched by the California Endowment. The City of San Diego will keep working collaboratively with relevant nonprofits, businesses and organizations throughout the region, and the steering committee will continue to serve in an advisory capacity.
“Immigrants are and should be seen as a resource. The Welcoming San Diego plan will allow San Diego to tap into the important asset that immigrants and refugees are for the entire region,” said Juan Pablo Sanchez, local business owner and board member of Business for Good.
“This report presents key recommendations that our city can begin to enact. One bullet that should not be overlooked in the report and that the New Americans Museum strives to achieve every day is the question of ‘narrative change’ – of counteracting divisive immigrant rhetoric with the positive and significant contributions of immigrants,” said Linda Caballero Sotelo, executive director of the New Americans Museum. “To understand our shared values as Americans, we are no longer in the business of trying to change people’s minds – but their hearts.”