Siler City’s New Immigrant Advisory Committee to Give Immigrants a Voice in City Government

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SILER CITY – Decades after immigrants started flocking to Siler City, the city will soon have a new Immigrant Advisory Board – and its creators have high hopes for the opportunities it is supposed to bring.

On June 21, the Siler City Council of Commissioners approved the city’s first immigrant community advisory committee as part of its efforts to better integrate immigrants into the community. Delayed by COVID-19, the idea originally emerged several years ago as part of the Siler City Building Integrated Communities (BIC) initiative – a partnership between the city, the Hispanic Liaison and the UNC Latino Project. Migration to identify and meet the needs of immigrant residents.

“I think this is a really important step in creating more relationships and communication and a channel for the immigrant community to have direct communication with city commissioners, city management and city staff on community issues that are relevant and need to be raised and need to be discussed and addressed, ”Liaison Founder and Executive Director Ilana Dubester told News + Record.

“We haven’t had that kind of space before in municipal government to do it,” she added. “There was no official channel. There was, of course, the Hispanic liaison that raised some issues, but that is not the same as having an organization that is part of the city and that works closely with the city in an official capacity. .

According to the city’s resolution, the seven-member committee will serve as a bridge between the council and immigrant residents, propose strategies to promote civic participation among immigrant residents, and serve as a forum to discuss and address concerns of the immigrant community.

And, perhaps most importantly, committee members will take the initiative to implement any recommendations identified by BIC to better serve the city’s immigrant residents.

“The advisory committee has really been launched as a key next step, but also a group of people who can lead this action plan together with the city,” Dubester said. “Other organizations could be involved, but in particular, (they) will look at things that are related to either the action of the city manager or the action of the chief or the action of the city commissioners, and move forward. this ball… apart from performing other functions.

According to the city’s resolution, eligible committee members come from “historically under-represented communities” of recent immigrant ancestry, whether Latin America or other parts of the world. Although Siler City’s immigrant population is predominantly Latino, the committee is not just for Hispanic immigrants, Dubester said.

“It was called the Latino Advisory Board, but another group refined it further and changed it to the Immigrant Advisory Board,” she said. “We wanted it to be representative of the other types of waves passing by, and there are other immigrants in town. So we wanted to include all immigrant communities and all new immigrant communities, not the people who have been here for generations. “

In this context, the members of the committee must be born abroad or be the children and / or grandchildren of immigrants. This is crucial, said Hannah Gill, program director of the UNC Latino Migration Project, especially since knowledge of the immigrant experience is the committee’s “core qualification”.

According to the resolution, members must have a “vested interest in immigrant communities,” as well as the skills or knowledge necessary to serve that interest.

“It’s the intimate knowledge of immigration to the United States and I think living in this region – these are key forms of knowledge and expertise,” she said. “… This is a committee for people who are immigrants, or recent immigrants who have this knowledge. This is a group that will hopefully support the advancement of many of the recommendations from residents who are immigrants. “

According to the resolution, committee members don’t have to live in Siler City to participate, but when it comes to choosing from the pool of candidates, the city will seek out those with the strongest ties to Siler City.

“For me, if you want to build a city or a community, you have to have people who want to be here, and they want to stay here,” Pro Mayor Tem Cindy Bray told News + Record, adding, “You’ve got to be community member. People know who you are, and they can trust you and say, “Oh, yeah, I know so and so. … That’s what interests me: someone who wants to stay and help the city of the community to develop in a positive and positive way.

Lynch added, “You know, work, recreate, be part of the community here, get involved, whether it’s programs for parks and recreation or having a business here. Just to focus on Siler City.

To apply, interested candidates can submit letters of interest to City Clerk Jenifer Johnson at [email protected] by August 9. Letters should include applicants’ home addresses, contact details, education, and current jobs. Applicants should also indicate their level of civic engagement, why they want to serve on the committee, and anything they feel is necessary.

“People can submit anything they want,” Lynch said. “You know, in other committees people submit their resumes and all of their work history and things like that that can help them make a decision.”

Not all positions are paid. The appointed committee members will serve for staggered terms of three years. Not all members of the inaugural committee will serve for the full three years. Members may stay for a second term if reappointed, but must rotate out of the committee for at least one year before serving a third term.

Once formed, the committee will determine its own meeting schedule, but must meet at least once a month, if not more. The status of the documentation does not matter, according to Dubester.

“None of the city committees have immigration status requirements of any kind,” she said, adding, “It would be pointless. We know, everyone knows, that “a proportion of our community is undocumented and also needs to be represented. And this is a voluntary service for the town of Siler City, so it’s not a problem.

The application process officially opened on June 9, when Johnson sent out the notice in English and Spanish, and will end on August 9.

“There is a 30 day window that we need to allow for submissions, and then at that point she (Johnson) will compile them,” Lynch said. “Our next meeting will be August 16th. I don’t know if we’ll have time to put everything together for this meeting. It may be September 6 when they go to the board for review.

Once the board receives the letters, Lynch added, the commissioners may choose to first review the letters and then bring them back to another meeting to ask questions or offer “different advice on this. that they would like to see “.

“It’s brand new,” he said. “It’s probably just going to develop as we go through the process. “

Journalist Victoria Johnson can be reached at [email protected]


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