Philadelphia Seeks Status as a “Certified Welcoming” Community for Immigrants

According to a recent article in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia seeks to join the 15 other locations in the United States that have been designated as a “Certified Welcoming” community. Philadelphia has a reputation for welcoming immigrants and recognizing the contributions that the immigrant population makes, both locally and nationally. In fact, the city has been a haven for Ukrainians who have had to flee their country due to the Russian invasion. Only cities who have created policies and programs that reflect their values and commitment to the immigrant community are considered for formal designation as a Certified Welcoming community. Philadelphia is currently involved in the months-long certification process, which includes an in-person audit by the Welcoming America staff. The city could be approved by the end of the year.

What Makes Philadelphia a Welcoming City for Immigrants?

Philadelphia has always been a welcoming city to immigrants from countries all over the world. In Philadelphia and the surrounding area, there are approximately 15,250 Ukrainian immigrants, as well as over 54,300 people of Ukrainian ancestry. In addition to providing a haven for Ukrainians, Philadelphia has welcomed thousands of immigrants who have had to flee their homeland for a variety of reasons. For example, when the American troops withdrew from Afghanistan, ending the 20-year war, Philadelphia International Airport welcomed over 30,000 evacuees. In addition, Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in South Jersey set up a processing station to help process newcomers. Over 4,000 Afghans are expected to settle in Philadelphia, which will double the existing Afghan population. The city also provided safety and shelter to Haitian arrivals who had to flee their country after the devastating 2021 earthquake that destroyed homes, businesses, and communities.

According to Mayor Jim Kenney affirms the city’s status as a safe haven for immigrants, especially those who have endured “despicable” acts of violence. “Philadelphia is proud to provide a safe and welcoming place for communities who have endured unspeakable loss,” said Kenney. “We also recognize the cultural and economic contributions that immigrants make to our city, and to cities and communities across the country. The immigrant community is responsible for fueling new businesses, creating new jobs, and bringing new vitality to the city.”

Immigrants currently make up over 14 percent of the city’s population. That means that there are approximately 225,400 immigrants out of a total population of 1,576,251, according to recent Census figures. There are over twice as many immigrants in Philadelphia as there are in the state of Pennsylvania. Over 25 percent of Philadelphia residents are immigrants, or have an immigrant parent, according to a Pew Charitable Trust analysis.

How Does Welcoming America Help the Immigrant Community?

Welcoming America is a non-profit organization that believes that all people, including immigrants, are vital to the economic, cultural, and social success of the community. The organization connects community leaders, government officials and nonprofit organizations throughout the city, across the country and around the world. Welcoming America creates inclusive and welcoming environments for immigrants, and helps communities create policies that communicate the social and economic benefits of inclusion.

What Is the “Welcoming Standard”?

The Welcoming Standard provides a comprehensive framework for communities who want to become more welcoming places. It is the backbone of the Certified Welcoming program. There are seven categories that make up the Welcoming Standard, which must be achieved by any community that is seeking Certified Welcoming status, including the following:

  1. Government Leadership: Local governments should implement a range of systems and programs that strengthen community efforts and encourage inclusion within government agencies. Government officials should assign a unit and staff to coordinate immigrant inclusion programs.
  2. Equitable Access: Welcoming communities should ensure that a range of community services and opportunities are available to all residents, including immigrants. For example, immigrants should have access to healthcare, childcare, transportation, and employment opportunities.
  3. Civic Engagement: Welcoming communities encourage all residents to participate in civic life by providing increased access to leadership and democratic spaces.
  4. Connected Communities: Welcoming communities foster relationships between immigrants and long-term residents by promoting a welcoming and accepting culture and communicating their shared values.
  5. Education: Welcoming communities work hard to provide an educational system that provides all students with the support they need to be successful in school and the tools they need to be successful in the workplace.
  6. Economic Development: Welcoming communities recognize the potential of all residents, including those in the immigrant population who have the skills and the assets to contribute to the local economy.
  7. Safe Communities: Welcoming communities work tirelessly to build trust, and foster positive, productive relationships between immigrant residents, law enforcement and safety agencies. 

What Is Involved in the Certification Process?

There are currently 15 locations in the United States that have achieved “certified welcoming” status, including the city of Baltimore, the city of Charlotte, the city of Dallas, the city of Detroit, the city of Lancaster, the city of Pittsburgh, Ohio’s Lucas County, Utah’s Salt Lake County, the city of Boise, the city of Chula Vista, the city of Dayton, the city of Erie, the city of Louisville, the city of San Jose, and Maryland’s Montgomery County.  To be approved by Welcoming America, the city must undergo a months-long certification process, which includes an in-person audit by Welcoming America staff.  The process can take anywhere from six months to one year, and certificates are valid for three years. Once a city or community has earned the Seal of Certification, it can be used to highlight their achievements as an accepting and inclusive community, in addition to showcasing the city as an inclusive place for trade, tourism, and investment.

Philadelphia Immigration Lawyers at Surin & Griffin, P.C. Provide Skilled Legal Counsel for the Immigrant Population

If you had to flee your country due to an ongoing war, or other unsafe conditions that threaten the lives of you and your family, and you are facing immigration issues, do not hesitate to contact our knowledgeable Philadelphia immigration lawyers at Surin & Griffin, P.C. at your earliest convenience. Philadelphia has had a long-standing reputation as a city that welcomes immigrants. Our skilled legal team will protect your legal rights and recommend the best legal course of action. To schedule a confidential consultation, call us today at 215-925-4435 or contact us online. With our offices located in Philadelphia, we proudly serve all clients in Pennsylvania and nationwide.