Mayor Michael Nutter signed an executive order earlier this month establishing the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant and Multi-Cultural Affairs.
The new office will be tasked with “improving access to city services, engaging community-based organizations, developing economic resources and assisting with educational opportunities,” according to a press release from the City of Philadelphia.
“The 2010 census showed that Philadelphia’s population grew for the first time in decades, [which] was driven in large part by immigrants,” read the release. “Our government must foster their integration into the social, civic and economic culture of our City and … celebrate the rich diversity of the communities from which they come.”
College junior Emmanuel Cordova — an undocumented immigrant who has been living in the United States since he was 4 years old — said that while he is pleased that the city is taking steps towards increasing assistance for immigrants, he is awaiting a more specific description of what the office will do, and what outside organizations it will seek to partner with.
“Recognizing the fact that Philadelphia has a growing immigrant population is a positive,” he said. “It’s a first step to … help out this sector of the population.”
He said that he hopes the office will work with other organizations that provide services to immigrants — such as DreamActivist Pennsylvania — and help students apply to avoid deportation for two years under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
Penn for Immigrant Rights’ University Engagement Coordinator Gionni Ponce wishes that the new office’s goals focused more on undocumented, rather than legal immigrants.
“It seems that much of the focus of the office will be on naturalizing current legal permanent residents so that they become citizens,” Ponce said in an email. “This objective could neglect Philly’s large population of undocumented immigrants who currently have no path to legal permanent residency. They, too, contribute much to Philadelphia’s thriving community.”
Ponce is pleased, however, that the office will attempt to address poor police-community relations, citing the immigrant community’s distrust of police for fear that reporting an incident would lead to contact with immigration enforcement officers.
“Many immigrants who are exploited, violated and robbed feel they have no one to whom they can turn,” Ponce said. “If the office manages to address this issue, they will be doing a great service to the immigrant community.”