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Task Force To Public: How Can City Be More Immigrant-Friendly?

A city immigration task force held the first of a series of listening sessions Thursday. The task force will make recommendations to the city council next year on how to make Charlotte more immigrant-friendly.

The City Council formed the Immigrant Integration Task Force primarily for two purposes: Make Charlotte more immigrant-friendly and capitalize on immigrant entrepreneurs.

“We want to hear from the community what’s going on,” says Stefan LaTorre, the chairman of the task force. He says he has a few preliminary questions need to be addressed.

“What is Charlotte doing well right now for immigrants? What areas can we improve on? And what is the critical need?”

The room was set up with four tables, about ten people seated at each, and the room had a diverse make-up. Immigrants from Puerto Rico, Argentina, and even Liberia were represented, among many others. There was even a native Charlottean – whom everyone pointed out is a rarity in this town. The public had a lot of suggestions.

“I would like people who get deferred action to be able to attend college or universities and pay in-state tuition,” says Sylvia Nikopoulos, the director of foreign languages at Central Piedmont Community College. She also thinks improving Charlotte’s public transportation would help immigrants.

“Some students for example need to take one bus, go downtown and from downtown walk and take another bus to come to CPCC or to go home,” she says, “So that’s very uncomfortable.”

The session also discussed teaching immigrants financial literacy, building trust between police officers and immigrant communities, and including more cultural celebrations and festivals that recognize immigrant heritage.

The task force will hold two more public listening sessions this summer. The group will present recommendations to the city next February.

Nick de la Canal is the host of Weekend Edition on Saturday/Sunday mornings, and a reporter covering breaking news, arts and culture, and general assignment stories. His work frequently appears on air and online. Periodically, he tweets: @nickdelacanal