Building Integrated Communities (BIC) is a statewide initiative that helps North Carolina local governments successfully engage with immigrants and refugee populations in order to improve public safety, promote economic development, enhance communication, and improve relationships.
With funding from the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, the Latino Migration Project – a UNC-Chapel Hill collaboration between the Institute for the Study of the Americas and the Center for Global Initiatives – began the first round of Building Integrated Communities in 2010. The project launched in three pilot sites: Orange County, High Point, and Greenville, North Carolina. BIC staff helped county and city managers, faith leaders, leaders from communities of color, and immigrant leaders at each site engage in long-range planning to 1) increase immigrant knowledge of city agencies and programs, 2) make city services, meetings, and information more accessible to immigrant populations, and 3) expand immigrant access to decision-making processes. Over the course of 2010-2012, more than 350 foreign-born residents representing 26 countries participated in these planning processes.
As a result of this process, High Point and Greenville communities each created and approved city-wide immigrant integration plans, the first such plans in the South. The city councils of both communities also voted to establish local immigrant advisory committees that provide leadership avenues for immigrant voices to advise city government leaders. Greenville’s plan focuses on making city services and event information more accessible to immigrants through bi-lingual factsheets, transit schedules, and emergency medical brochures; a One-Stop Information Center; and a volunteer Community Ambassador program. High Point’s plan engages all city agencies and includes the adoption of a direct Spanish Information Line, translation of utility statements, municipal and bus tours for immigrants, and intentional incorporation of immigrant communities into existing city projects.
Building off of these two cities’ successes, the UNC-CH Latino Migration Project will hold a two-day public forum for delegations of municipal leaders from across the state in Fall 2014. The forum will showcase innovative strategies from Greenville and High Point and other migrant destinations. Workshops with local officials and representatives from immigrant communities will offer training in BIC methods, giving municipality delegations best-practice tools with which to draft initial plans for integration efforts.
In the coming year, with help from the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, the Latino Migration Project will hold a selection process for two new North Carolina municipal partners. These new partners will build upon the foundation built by Greenville and High Point’s communities, generating locally-relevant strategies to strengthen immigrant civic engagement, linguistic achievement, and economic/educational advancement.
For more information about Building Integrated Communities, visit https://migration.unc.edu/programs/bic/