Pittsburgh was first settled by a diverse and eclectic group of immigrants who came here in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to find work, start families, and put down roots. The diversity that comes from immigration brings economic and cultural benefits to a community, and our legacy of immigration is still front and center in neighborhoods like Polish Hill and Deutschtown. In 2011, 7.1% of Pittsburgh residents were foreign born, a 5% increase from 2000. Pittsburgh should seize this opportunity to further encourage the growth and development that new immigrants bring and welcome a new generation of entrepreneurs to our neighborhoods.
1. Declaring Pittsburgh Immigrant-Friendly
Pittsburgh can start to demonstrate our commitment to fostering a diverse community by passing a citywide resolution declaring our intention, much like the city of Dayton, Ohio in 2011. Such a resolution would outline proposed initiatives and highlight existing institutions in our community that work to achieve inclusion and opportunity for all residents of Pittsburgh.
2. Increasing Accessibility of City Services
Pittsburgh can encourage civic engagement in the immigrant population by decreasing barriers to communication. City-sponsored English language and citizenship classes would support immigrants in adjusting to Pittsburgh, while a greater offering of city services in foreign languages would allow them to create businesses and become homeowners with much greater ease. An important step in increasing access would be the translation of key city web pages and documents into highly utilized foreign languages. For example, the URA should offer a Spanish translation of their web pages regarding home improvement loans and small business loans. Of course the goal of every new immigrant should be to learn to speak and read English but in the meantime we should provide the support that new families need to start a small business or purchase or renovate a home.
3. Retaining Foreign Students
Pittsburgh welcomes nearly 8,000 international students to our many colleges and universities every year, but only a tiny fraction of those students decide to stay here once they graduate. We must work directly with private and public sector employers to take an active role in recruiting these students to stay in Pittsburgh and become a part of the community.