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How Could Austin Become More Welcoming to People From Other Countries?

Jessica Wright/flickr
An Austin commission is compiling a report trying to gauge how welcoming the city seems to new people.

What does it mean to be a "welcoming" city?

More specifically, what would Austin need to do to become more welcoming toward people from other countries? Perhaps it would need to implement signage in different languages, or perhaps, it'd need to do other things.

In order to find out what those other things are, a team of advisors recently surveyed Austinites and is compiling the answers into a report.

To craft the report, Austin's Commission on Immigrant Affairs asked for feedback from a huge pool of people.

Commission Chair Angela Jo Touza-Medina says her survey was answered by "immigrants, the general public, service providers, businesses, funders – both philanthropic and public funders — and elected officials."

What the Commission on Immigrant Affairs found is that the immigrant experience in Austin varies tremendously.

"How welcomed an immigrant [feels] depends on whether they're educated [and] what their citizenship status is," says Touza-Medina. The experience is different for those who speak English compared to those who don't. And Touza-Medina says it's also different depending on which country people come from.

Of course there is no one way to make a diverse group of people feel welcome. But as Touza-Medina says, everyone understands what it means to have a "welcome" mat at the foot of a door.

The Immigrant Affairs Commission will present its full findings of the survey on making Austin more welcoming to the Austin City Council in August. 

Texas Standard reporter Joy Diaz has amassed a lengthy and highly recognized body of work in public media reporting. Prior to joining Texas Standard, Joy was a reporter with Austin NPR station KUT on and off since 2005. There, she covered city news and politics, education, healthcare and immigration.
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