By: Amy Eusebio, Executive Director, Office of Immigrant Affairs

What is Welcoming Week?

Welcoming Week is a national initiative led by Welcoming America that showcases the growing movement of communities striving to be more welcoming places for all, including immigrants. In 2021, Philadelphia is joining Welcoming America in declaring that Belonging Begins With Us. Each and every one of us has the power to help others, regardless of their background, to feel like they are seen, embraced, welcomed, and included in our communities.

Whether it’s starting a new job, changing schools or neighborhoods, we’ve all had moments where we felt like we didn’t belong. For people who moved to this country, this experience can last more than a moment. From language barriers to cultural differences, feeling excluded can take years to overcome.

Yet, because we all know how it feels to be excluded, we also know how to make others feel they belong. When that happens, communities can fully harness the strengths, talents, and contributions of each person to build shared prosperity.

How is Philadelphia welcoming? 

The people of Philadelphia encourage welcoming and belonging every single day. This year we’ve seen Philadelphia launch new murals celebrating immigrant women and to increase safety in South Philly. We have also seen the addition of new soccer pitches to our recreation centers and the launch of community libraries in Spanish. We have also seen residents across the city support Caribbean and Latino restaurants, celebrate the African diaspora with a week-long Odunde Festival, and celebrate our first-ever Arab Community Day and so much more.

In addition to what residents are doing, the City of Philadelphia continues to ensure we remain a welcoming city by promoting immigrant-inclusive initiatives and programs.

Welcoming Sanctuary Schools

This year, the City of Philadelphia and the School District of Philadelphia have taken steps to expand our region’s welcoming policies and programs. For the first time, the Philadelphia Board of Education passed a resolution declaring Philadelphia’s schools as Welcoming Sanctuary Schools. This is a critical step in supporting our region’s children to learn in environments that are not disrupted by immigration enforcement actions, supporting our children’s safety and emotional well-being, and defending the right to access a free public education without fear. The resolution calls for the School District to create a Welcoming Sanctuary Plan within 100 days of the resolution passing. Join the District’s Office of Family and Community Engagement (FACE) in an upcoming community feedback session on September 14 to give your input on their plans.

Universal Representation

Additionally, for fiscal year 2022, the City of Philadelphia is investing $300,000 into the Pennsylvania Immigrant Family Unity Project (PAIFUP) that provides legal representation to people facing detention and deportation in PA. This investment represents a 50% increase in funding over fiscal year 2021. This program provides timely support that allows people, oftentimes breadwinners, the opportunity to be home with their family and community – instead of in detention – while attending their immigration hearings in court. A key component to sustaining and growing a universal representation legal program is the allocation of public funds and Philadelphia is proud to continue this funding and our participation in the Vera Institute of Justice Safety and Fairness for Everyone (SAFE) Initiative. To learn more details about the program, please join us for the educational roundtable discussion about PAIFUP during Welcoming Week.

These two new initiatives build upon the existing immigrant inclusive programs available across City departments, such as:

  • The Office of City Representative continues the PHL Honors Diversity program having hosted 14 flag raising ceremonies in 2021 with 11 more through December.
  • Philadelphia Parks and Recreation has continued its commitment to the Philadelphia Unity Cup with 52 countries forming teams to play in the 2021 Unity Cup games
  • The Department of Commerce distributed $27 million in COVID-19 relief to 3,177 businesses; 63% of funding was awarded to minority-owned businesses including immigrants. The Department of Commerce also offers several programs that are open to all business owners in our city including those operating businesses with taxpayer ID numbers and multilingual business owners.
  • The Philadelphia Department of Labor became a permanent City department in 2020 and has increased the number of staff within the Office of Worker Protections to expand outreach and increase reports from residents across the city experiencing workplace violations. Their website includes content in 12 languages and they have several multilingual staff. The Office of Immigrant Affairs partners with the Department of Labor on the Philadelphia Worker Relief Fund, an emergency cash assistance program for families left out of federal and state COVID-19 relief.
  • The Office of Immigrant Affairs has initiated improvements to the Language Access Philly program, entering into vendor contracts that will facilitate increased language inclusion for the multilingual residents of Philadelphia.
  • The Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services is developing an Immigrant and Refugee Wellness Academy to provide critical services that promote mental health and wellness for immigrant communities.

Although we know the marginalization and exclusion people experience daily in our city is significant, it is important for us to take a moment and celebrate the great progress we have made. Join us for one or more programs during Philadelphia’s Welcoming Week’s September 10 to 24! ¡Bienvenidos!

Learn ways to create a more welcoming Philadelphia!

See the full schedule of Welcoming Week programs in Philadelphia.

Sign up for our information session about Renting to Refugees.

Tell us how you are a welcomer in Philadelphia.

Promote Welcoming Week utilizing this social media toolkit.