Delegation from Portugal visits Austin to talk “Welcoming Communities”
(ABC 6 News) – In a partnership across the Atlantic Ocean and spanning thousands of miles, a delegation from Portugal landed in Austin Wednesday to share what they know about being a welcoming community.
To the delegation, being a welcoming community means welcoming in immigrants, and having programs to help them get settled and comfortable in their new country.
The delegation got a taste of American culture at the SPAM museum Wednesday, but for the next two days, the conversation will dive much deeper than canned ham. The three Portuguese Representatives came to tour the United States to teach, and to learn, about integrating immigrants into local communities.
“We have the responsibility of being countries that welcome well also,” said Miguel Graça, Coordinator of the project “Participatory Local Plans for the Integration of Migrants” and part of the delegation.
“Austin has really come to, not only welcoming immigrants, but actually relying upon them for our growth and what they’re bringing for new businesses,” Austin Mayor Steve King said.
Austin is their final stop in their tour and it is also the smallest. In a lineup of major metropolitan areas like San Jose, Calif. and San Antonio, Texas, King is honored the delegation chose Austin.
“How fortunate are we that they chose us?”
Graça is the coordinator of the project. He says coming to Austin was important because welcoming immigrants into small, rural communities is just as important as welcoming them into concrete jungles like San Antonio.
“How do you integrate seasonal workers on agriculture? How do you establish in a community in a small village?” asked Graça.
One difference between the United States and Portugal is that in Portugal, Graça says welcoming plans are funded by the government. In the U.S. welcoming plans are largely funded by private donors. However, Graça sees Portugal and the U.S. facing similar challenges as well when it comes to giving immigrants a home.
“The challenges are quite common in fact,” Graça said.
Challenges include managing the flow of immigrants into the country after major tragedies like the war in Ukraine. Thursday, the delegation and city leaders will spend all day putting their heads together, to overcome those challenges.
More information about the project can be found here.