Mayors seek a bigger voice in the immigration debate
Mayors around the world converged at the United Nations this week to propose ways to make cities more welcoming to immigrants and refugees — and to ask for more money for their efforts.
Why is this important: Cities are on the front line of immigration, but mayors feel they have been pushed out of discussions. A new group called the Council of Mayors on Migration hopes to make its voice heard in national and international circles — and highlight the actions cities are taking to welcome and assimilate newcomers.
Members of the Council of Mayors on Migration are on hand to deliver a new report which highlights 70 urban initiatives for immigrants and refugees. Examples include:
- Barcelona, Zurich and Braga (in Portugal) have established formal reception programs for Ukrainians.
- Milan has a green jobs program for migrants.
- Bogotá has opened nutrition centers for immigrant children from Venezuela.
- Kampala, Uganda is offering cash assistance to migrants affected by COVID-19.
- Boston Mayor Michelle Wu has set up five initiatives, including a Dreamers’ Fellowship, which prepares undocumented migrants for employment, and a Health Care Fellowship, which places African and Caribbean professionals in local hospitals.
The big picture: The founders of the Mayors Migration Council – including Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti – are trying “to change the status quo in the way the international system works, so that cities are more included in the conversation”, Vittoria Zanuso, executive director of the advice, says Axios.
- 70% of displaced people seek refuge in urban areas and 20% of international migrants go to just 20 cities, according to the group.
- Ignoring the arrival of new arrivals or trying to push them away will not change the reality on the ground.
At the United Nations this week, “The key message the mayors will bring is that we have been quite successful in cutting red tape to deal with the COVID crisis” and helping refugees from Afghanistan, Ukraine and elsewhere, Zanuso says.
- “Visas were expedited, COVID testing was available for undocumented people, a lot of decisions were made pretty quickly.”
To note : Climate migrants are a major focus of the group. Last year, 15 US mayors wrote a open letter to President Biden to urge him to include the urban dimension in a White House report on the impact of climate change on migration – and they succeeded.
- The result document honored their request and recognized the Council of Mayors on Migration.
Follow the money: Mayors arrived at the United Nations with outstretched hands: it takes money to resettle refugees and migrants in cities, and most international aid goes to nations rather than local entities.
- The group created the Global Cities Fund for Migrants and Refugees channel international philanthropy to cities.
- “It is at the city level that the greatest needs of migrants and refugees are met, from housing to healthcare to employment,” said Erias Lukwago, Mayor of Kampala and Founder of Mayors Migrant. Council.
The bottom line: Although helping immigrants can be considered a progressive cause, Zanuso says the council is bipartisan. “Mayors not only do it because it’s the right thing to do, but also the smart thing to do,” she said. “They know they have to welcome and protect migrants no matter what.”
- “Either they do it right or they forget about it – don’t manage it and just pay the costs,” she said.
- “I think there’s a lot of pragmatism in what they do.”