By Melissa Kuehne.

In San Mateo and Santa Clara counties more than one third of the 2.5 million residents are immigrants with nearly 50 percent of the workforce being foreign born and over 240,000 “lawful permanent residents” eligible to become U.S. citizens. Though a large, vital part of the community, immigrant groups are often underrepresented in public processes. To help address this, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties are partnering with the community to support immigrant integration and have recently created offices of immigrant affairs.

In October, the Institute for Local Government convened county and city staff and elected officials from San Mateo and Santa Clara counties to educate and inform local officials about immigrant integration, create a safe public sector space for learning and networking and identify potential collaborative opportunities.

“Santa Clara County and San Mateo County are among the most diverse communities in the state and nation,” said Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez. ”With 38 percent of my own county having been born in another country and more than half speaking a language other than English in their home, I understand how important this topic is for the Bay Area. It was gratifying to see our local leaders so engaged and focused on how we can better serve the immigrant communities and strengthen our neighborhoods.”

Attendees gained a regional perspective on issues they grapple with in their own jurisdiction and have a renewed commitment to partnering within and beyond their jurisdiction to plan regional citizenship activities, support and expand police community relations, examine internal practices and incorporate cultural competency.

“The convening was a great opportunity for local agencies from both counties to come together to hear best practices on how we can support our immigrant community,” said San Mateo County Supervisor Warren Slocum. “And to identify next steps to improve the quality of life for our immigrant population in the Bay Area.”

The convening is part of a regional project to help build stronger communities through effective immigrant integration. ILG is developing immigrant integration resources for local governments; providing technical assistance and creating connections between local governments, schools community-based organizations, business and philanthropic organizations in San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties. Thank you to the Grove Foundation, Heising-Simons Foundation and the Silicon Valley Community Foundation for making this project possible.

ILG’s Immigrant Integration Resources

The Institute for Local Government offers a number of resources and case stories to help local officials in California successfully engage and integrate immigrant residents into the civic and public life of their communities. ILG has new resources on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), tips for providing language access and ideas for encouraging immigrant engagement in your community.

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Originally posted at the California State Association of Counties.

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