How being Certified Welcoming builds resilience, inclusion in Dallas

Written by: Liz Cedillo-Pereira; Chief of Equity and Inclusion, Office of the City Manager, City of Dallas, TX & Vanna Slaughter; Senior Program Manager (retired), Office of Welcoming Communities and Immigrant Affairs, City of Dallas, TX

As part of our milestone in reaching 10 Certified Welcoming places this year, we hear from some of these places to see how becoming Certified Welcoming helped in the response to COVID-19, building resilience, and racial equity. In this blog, we hear from the City of Dallas in Texas, which became Certified Welcoming in 2019.

The outbreak of COVID-19 presented cities and counties across the U.S. with unprecedented challenges. What were some of the unique challenges your community continues to face? How has being Certified Welcoming supported your community’s emergency response efforts for COVID-19?

In Dallas, we continue to face challenges caused by remote working routines and physical distancing. So much of our pre-COVID welcoming work has been on the ground and face-to-face with community partners; it has been an adjustment having to interact and collaborate via virtual platforms. 

Notwithstanding this challenge, however, we are grateful for the many solid relationships cultivated during the Certified Welcoming process before the pandemic. These have allowed us to pivot to a virtual environment and continue working with our community partners in the digital space. 

How has being Certified Welcoming created opportunities for resilience-building within your community? 

The Certified Welcoming process is critical in ensuring a diverse and comprehensive network of relationships throughout the community, as well as having a plan to guide our work. During the pandemic, these relationships have been essential to our implementation of the Welcoming Dallas Strategic Plan and providing time-sensitive information on COVID-19 to the community. Being a Certified Welcoming city has definitely allowed us abundant opportunities to be resilient.

Going through the Certified Welcoming process helps cities and countries identify new relationships and collaborations for communities, such as those between government officials, residents, police, and more. How have you leveraged these partnerships in responding to not only the pandemic, but also the Black Lives Matter movement and national conversation on race?

During both the pandemic and recent conversations on racial equity, we leveraged the relationships strengthened during the Certified Welcoming process in various ways. In collaboration with our broader equity and inclusion team, we have accomplished the following, among other items: 

  • Leadership and communications 
    • Established a newsletter on equity and inclusion to curate resources and services during COVID-19 in English and Spanish  
    • Enhanced our digital community resources hub and made available in multiple languages 
    • Participating in the Office of Equity’s community conversations on Black Lives Matter centered on racial equity, justice, and resilience.
  • Safe, healthy, and connected communities 
    • Partnering with city offices, including Office of Resilience and Office of Emergency Management, to establish a Rapid Resilience Fund with Welcoming America leadership 
    • Partnering with city departments in the development of the Health Equity Working Group to distribute personal protective equipment and other resources to vulnerable community members
    • Teaming up with Center for Mexican American Studies at University of Texas at Arlington, University Crossroad and Hispanic Contractors Association to deliver face coverings, hand sanitizers, and guidelines to families disproportionately impacted by COVID-19
    • Established a Latinx Public Health working group to address the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on the Latinx community in Dallas in partnership with the Office of Resilience and Equity 
  • Educational opportunity 
    • Supporting the school district with its workshops on racial equity
    • Coordinating with educational institutions in support of DACA students and families
  • Equitable access 
    • Created a PSA video with the Mexican Consulate to provide resources to the Spanish-speaking community
    • Improving language access efforts via administrative changes to current policies, 
    • Partnered with the City Housing Department to establish a rental and mortgage assistance program that includes immigrant and refugee families 
  • Civic engagement 
    • Led and participated in webinars and Zoom meetings to impart critical information during the shutdown to the community on policy topics, including: the Supreme Court decision on DACA, the census, town halls on Univision, COVID-19 testing sites, and other community resources
  • Economic opportunity 
    • Partnered with the City Department of Economic Development and Office of Business Diversity, Texas Business Immigration Coalition, People Fund CDFI,  and the Small Business Administration to connect small businesses and entrepreneurs with critical information regarding Paycheck Protection Program and others.
    • Partnered with the Open Society Foundation and the Communities Foundation of Texas to establish the Emma Lazarus Resilience Fund to provide critical cash for immigrants who are essential workers and ineligible for federal stimulus funds.  Our goal is to expand these funds to include other vulnerable communities in Dallas.

Think your city or county is a welcoming and inclusive place? Learn more about what it takes to become Certified Welcoming.

Posted in