GINI launches blueprint for immigrant inclusion

The Gainesville Immigrant Neighbor Inclusion Initiative (GINI) revealed its blueprint for building a more inclusive community in both the City of Gainesville and Alachua County at a meeting held in the Matheson History Museum on Tuesday.

Gainesville started GINI early in 2021 thanks to grants through the Gateways for Growth Challenge in 2020. Since then, GINI has worked to build its blueprint for the community through a 60-person steering committee and input from eight organizations and 182 foreign-born residents who responded to a survey.

“Such a plan affirms City and County efforts to support sustainable, innovative and prosperous communities,” Robin Lewy, co-lead for GINI, said in the blueprint.

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With the blueprint in place, GINI will move forward with implementation and the city’s government can move forward as it chooses.

“Today is not the end of anything; it’s the beginning,” Mayor Lauren Poe said. “It’s the end of the beginning, if you will.”

He called the blueprint a starting point for building a “fully inclusive, fully welcoming city.” With the blueprint released, the initiative will be with the local government to decide which policies to actually implement.

The blueprint lists five goals: safe communities, engaged communities, healthy communities, equitable education and equitable access.

Each goal contains desired outcomes and action steps to reach them. Under safe communities, a listed outcome is “improve the relationship between local law enforcement and immigrants.”

Ways to accomplish the goal include prohibiting law enforcement from asking about legal status unless required by law, educating local government and school officials on the Community ID Program, and providing cultural competence training to law enforcement on issues concerning immigrants.

The entire blueprint is available online at gainesvilleimmigrantneighbor.org.

GINI lists two actions as steps the city, county and school board could take immediately: implement telephone-based language services and hire immigrant liaisons.

BOCC Chair Marihelen Wheeler speaks at the GINI Blueprint launch

On March 17, the Gainesville Commission voted to move forward with both action steps, sending the issue to staff for fiscal analysis before final confirmation.

Marihelen Wheeler, chair of the Alachua County Board of County Commissioners, said the commission would take up the issue on May 10.

“It feels totally different from five years ago or six years ago,” said Yennifer Molina, vice president of the Human Rights Coalition of Alachua County. “Six years ago I wouldn’t stand here and say my name. My name is Yennifer, and I live here.”

GINI will move forward with Language Access Institutes over the summer to provide training on using language lines through Language Access Florida, a Day of the Immigrant Cultural Event and GINI Education Assemblies to help immigrant parents understand the school system.

Overview of immigrant community in Gainesville:

  • Comprises 11.3 percent of population as of 2019
  • Represents 24.4 percent of the city’s population growth from 2014-2019
  • 90 percent want more opportunities to improve their English
  • Nearly one-third feel they are not included and do not belong in the community
  • Paid roughly $76 million in local, state and federal taxes
  • Own 16 percent of local businesses
Yennifer Molina speaks at the GINI Blueprint launch

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