Philadelphia has the reputation for being an open, friendly, and welcoming city for immigrants, refugees, and people of all backgrounds. Every September, the Office of Immigrant Affairs is proud to participate in Welcoming America's National Welcoming Week. This year, from Sept. 14 to 24, there will be nearly 40 events across the city to celebrate our immigrant communities.
The Welcoming Week movement encourages everyone to build common ground through a range of events and activities planned in collaboration with more than 30 community partners. There will be events celebrating and sharing the cultures of our immigrant populations, including a Japanese tea ceremony, a traditional Indonesian dance class, and the Mexican Independence Day festival. Other events are educational, such as the global guide tour at the Penn Museum, the Journey South Mural Tour, or the bilingual bird walk. Free legal screenings will help immigrants on their path to becoming citizens, and we will celebrate that journey with a naturalization ceremony at the Phillies game Sept. 18.
Some events will bring everyone together over a common passion, like the Philadelphia International Unity Cup Block Party on Sept. 16. What all of the Welcoming Week events have in common is that they provide both native and new Philadelphians an opportunity to explore other cultures and develop a deeper appreciation for one another.
Welcoming Week is a celebration of the rich diversity of our nation and our city. Thanks to immigration, Philadelphia has seen 50 years of population decline reversed. The influx of immigrants in our neighborhoods has prevented destabilizing blight. Immigrants are responsible for the majority of our "Main Street" business growth and for 75 percent of the workforce growth since 2000. Our city is safer when we stick together and trust one another, and crime is at a 40-year low.
In a time of uncertainty for many immigrants, it is now more important than ever to embrace our neighbors with open arms. Immigrants come to the United States and Philadelphia in search of freedom and the chance for a better life for themselves and their families. Under similar circumstances, any one of us would do the same and would hope to be met with understanding and compassion, not hatred and hostility. Treating our immigrant populations with respect is both the right thing to do and the smart thing to do, because we are strongest when we ensure that our newest Philadelphians have the ability to thrive.