Immigrant Outreach Goes Door-to-Door

Neal Peirce looks at a broad citizen outreach program in Montgomery County, Maryland, engages its growing immigrant population by actually interacting with them face-to-face.
May 18, 2009, 7am PDT | Nate Berg
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"Montgomery, like many of its suburban counterparts nationwide, has turned into a great immigrant gateway. In 1980, only 12 percent of the its population (then 579,000) was foreign-born; today the figure's 30 percent of 950,000.

And fewer of these immigrants are from Mexico, which supplies the most to the United States; rather they're mostly from Asia (led by China and India), Central and South America (El Salvador first), Africa (Ethiopia), and Europe (Ukraine).

In normal times, many new immigrants struggle for a foothold; in a recession, high numbers are jobless, face eviction and other hardships. But in Montgomery County, a coalition has come together to break the typical shell of fear and alienation.

The idea: go to immigrants' homes, engage them through friendly door-knocking campaigns, speak their language, check on problems they face, let them know about neighborhood gatherings, help them tap available government and non-profit services. And even more–ask immigrant families about skills they might possess that may help their neighbors."

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Published on Sunday, May 17, 2009 in Citiwire
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