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Civic Engagement Findings and Recommendations
Finding: Muslim immigrants face discrimination limiting their religious practice, especially in land use decisions.
  • City councils should abide by the requirements of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act and avoid land use decisions that limit the religious practices of Muslim immigrants and other religious groups.
  • Educate the broader community on religious tolerance, combating the myths and misinformation about Islam and other minority religions that fuel discrimination.
Finding: Immigrant-led, ethnically based organizations see strong participation from immigrants and refugees, but lack the resources and support to fully serve their constituents.
  • Funders should ensure broad dissemination of their programs and priorities so that immigrant-led organizations that may not be well established or connected to the funding community can access funding and technical support.
  • Government agencies and institutions with resources for small organizations, such as free space or low-cost technology assistance, should increase outreach so that immigrant-led organizations know what help is available.
  • Encourage partnerships between new immigrant-led and established organizations to gain more input from immigrants in programs that affect the broader community, while providing capacity building, technical assistance, and shared resources to help immigrant-led organizations become more effective.
Finding: Immigrants are not always aware of community resources and opportunities for engagement with the larger community.
  • Use existing forums to reach immigrant communities, such as English language classes, immigrant churches, grocery stores, and other trusted institutions.
  • Centralize information about community resources so that it is easy for immigrants to find what they need, using methods such as telephone hotlines, online referral services, and community connector organizations.
  • Adequately fund organizations that serve as connectors between immigrant communities and existing public institutions so that they can serve as linguistic and cultural navigators for everyone who needs assistance.
  • Government agencies with significant public contact, such as child protection, housing inspectors, and residential regulation enforcement (e.g. shoveling and mowing), should conduct community orientation and listening sessions. These should be in collaboration with community groups, and focus on both educating new arrivals about laws and common violations, as well as hearing from immigrants about problems and concerns.
Finding: Immigrants feel that organizations serving the broader community do not reflect their priorities, encourage their leadership, accommodate their cultural norms, or assist them in overcoming language barriers, which limits their participation.
  • Organizations should encourage volunteering and other engagement that values immigrant expertise.
  • Use forms of outreach and communication that place a strong emphasis on forming personal relationships as a way to bring immigrants into existing community institutions.
  • Actively solicit input from all constituents to help shape the priorities and processes of organizations that serve the broader community.
  • Organizations should evaluate potential barriers to immigrant involvement and consider changes to accommodate cultural differences, where practical.
  • Recognize the need for integrated organizations that include newcomers and long-term residents working in partnership.
  • Provide language services where possible to facilitate involvement by all members of the community.
  • Avoid asking for Social Security numbers or U.S.-issued identification from potential participants. Keep confidential any personal information about volunteers and other participants, especially regarding immigration status.
Finding: Immigrants are not well represented in the political system, whether as elected officials, government employees, appointees, or members of boards and commissions.
  • Municipalities may need to re-examine electoral districts and voting processes to promote a more representative government that reflects the demographic shifts caused by immigration.
  • Public and private organizations should provide widely available civic education for adults on voting, running for office, and holding appointed positions.
  • Political parties should think about ways to leverage immigrant communities as volunteers, activists, and candidates.
  • Local governments should consider changing how appointed positions are publicized and filled to attract a more diverse pool of applicants, for instance by centralizing all applications or conducting targeted outreach to achieve diversity goals.
  • Local governments and community institutions should help immigrants build the capacity and personal connections to be involved in politics and government through citizen academies, leadership trainings, or other outreach programs.