GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Kent County released its immigrant welcoming plan Friday, which is part of its efforts to think more proactively about inclusivity.
Grand Rapids is one of 13 communities throughout the U.S. participating in national initiative Gateways for Growth, which helped develop the welcoming plan.
The plan is structured around helping immigrants overcome barriers in five categories: civic engagement, economic development, safe and connected communities, education and equitable access to services.
Read the full plan here.
The committee that developed the plan has members in sectors including health care, education, government, business, law enforcement, housing and immigrants and refugees.
Representatives included officials from the City of Grand Rapids, Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce, West Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Kent County and Samaritas, along with a task force of 36 organizations in the community.
“I want to feel welcome, I want to feel safe because we have so much to offer," said Mireya Correa, an immigrant business owner in Grand Rapids. "We have so much to bring to this city, like food, culture, art, and with our businesses, we can create jobs for everyone to enjoy.”
Officials acknowledge that while the plan is a step in the right direction, there is still more work to be done – both at the local and federal levels – to help new Americans.
“We know this welcome plan is just the beginning,” said Stacy Stout, director of equity and engagement for the City of Grand Rapids. “However, there is much to do at the state and federal levels to advocate change and equitable inclusion of New Americans and other communities who face systemic racism and oppression. We encourage you to leverage your influence to make change locally and at the state and federal levels and call on the community to explore what recommendations you as an individual or organization can impact.”