Gainesville has declared itself to be welcoming to immigrants, but still has work to do in ensuring foreign-born residents are able to access needed services and fully participate in civic life.
Our city would help achieve these goals by following the recommendations of the Gainesville Immigrant Neighbor Inclusion (GINI) Initiative. The group’s 2022 Immigrant Inclusion Blueprint, released Tuesday, includes dozens of proposals aimed at “creating an inclusive and safe community for immigrants.”
The report was put together over 15 months through the collaboration of city staff with 60 residents and eight organizations, along with the input of 182 foreign-born survey respondents. Its recommendations include measures meant to help Gainesville’s foreign-born residents better access education, health care, law enforcement and other important services.
Immigrants are a significant and vital segment of our community, including foreign-born faculty and students at the University of Florida, immigrants who have started local business and thousands of other immigrants living and working throughout the area.
Immigrants comprised more than 11% of the Gainesville population in 2019 and nearly one-quarter of the total local population growth over the previous five years, according to census data cited in the GINI report. Immigrants are responsible for one in five new local businesses and represent about 14% of the spending power in Alachua County, according to the report.
In 2016, Gainesville and Alachua County commissioners passed resolutions to become the first city and among the first counties in Florida to join the Welcoming America network of municipalities. The nonprofit group Welcoming Gainesville and Alachua County was subsequently formed to hold events and programs aimed at better including foreign-born residents in community life.
But on Easter Sunday 2018, the Gainesville Police Department’s response to a domestic violence call showed that work needed to be done in making our community safe and inclusive for immigrants. GPD received criticism after announcing that the victim and witnesses were going to be reported to federal immigration officials because they were believed to be undocumented.