Whether it’s the cutting-edge research at the University of Florida, the food we all eat, new businesses created, or the constant construction our towns are experiencing, our foreign-born neighbors have been playing an integral part in our community for years.
Making up over 10 percent of our population in both the City and County, the number of immigrants and refugees making their homes here has been on the rise. But a survey (referenced below) of the immigrant population revealed that nearly 80 percent of immigrants wanted more opportunities to participate in our community and 1/3 of respondents did not feel included at all. Despite this, our foreign-born community contributed over $57 million in state and local taxes and nearly 16 percent of the GDP in 2019 alone.
The Gainesville Immigrant Neighbor Inclusion Initiative (GINI) was created in recognition that, despite their critical and necessary presence, there are systemic barriers preventing our foreign-born neighbors from being fully safe and included in our community.
After a year of monthly meetings of the GINI Steering Committee members, in-depth interviews of immigrant community members, and 170+ responses to the GINI Immigrant Welcoming Survey, the Immigrant Inclusion Blueprint was released.
This document (available on the GINI website: rwhp.org/gini.html), provides a comprehensive list of specific steps local government, schools, organizations, and individuals can take to build a welcoming Gainesville and Alachua County. It’s been six months since its release and important strides have been made toward achieving the Blueprint’s goals.
On Sept. 14, the GINI Initiative hosted a community update, with leaders from the City, County, and Alachua County School System, on the amazing progress accomplished to better include our foreign-born neighbors: The City and County have allocated funds for the translation of signs and important documents, the implementation of an interpretation service, and the hiring of an immigrant liaison — someone in charge of immigrant programming who will serve as the connection between immigrant communities and local government.
The Alachua County School District is currently testing out their own interpretation service and have their sights set on opening a Welcoming Center to serve as a centralized location where parents, including those foreign-born, can go to with any questions and concerns in any language.
Our allies with the Human Rights Watch of Alachua County have received funding, as well as recognition of their Community ID from the City, County, Gainesville Police Department and the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office. This tool serves as proof of residence in our community, allowing the cardholder access to services otherwise out of reach.
Since the release of the Immigrant Inclusion Blueprint, GINI was awarded an implementation grant from Gateways for Growth to enact a few of the steps outlined. With the grant, GINI will be able to provide free community resources to the public and local organizations:
– Language Access Institutes: This fall, in coordination with Language Access Florida, GINI will provide free workshops to organizations and agencies interested in increasing their language access and clientele. Participants will learn the many different factors that go into building language access and the nuances to the different strategies organizations can use. Participants will also learn how to create their own language access plan, with guidance from Dr. Laura Gonzales, director of Language Access Florida and facilitator of the workshops.
– Language Identification Guides: A card organizations can use to find the primary language of patients/clientele who have limited English proficiency and also serves as a guide to effectively use an interpreter/interpretation services. (See example on page 6.)
– “I Speak” Cards: Get these free Informative pamphlets for Limited English Proficient speakers, with a removable “I Speak” card. The pamphlet provides the holder with critical phrases in English and includes the directions/reasons for using the detachable card. The “I Speak” card informs whoever the cardholder is communicating with what their primary language is and their need for an interpreter. The card also acknowledges their legal right to an interpreter at any organization receiving federal funds. These cards will be available in Spanish, Mandarin, Vietnamese, Portuguese, and Haitian Creole. (Example to the right.)
The fight for a safe and inclusive community all our neighbors can enjoy requires we work together. If you or someone you know has connections into any immigrant communities, whether it’s a faith institution, restaurant, or friend group, please reach out to us.
The success of our Initiative is dependent on the diversity of our members and our ability to work collaboratively with the many immigrant groups in the community. If you are interested in working with us or would like to learn more about one of our free resources, please reach out!
Share your questions, ideas or time with GINI! Order Language Access Cards or sign up for a Language Access Institute workshop at GINI@rwhp.org/gini.html.