The Town of Chapel Hill recently released its Building Integrated Communities project report, which details the Town’s findings from listening sessions with immigrant and refugee residents.
The project is facilitated by The Latino Migration Project at UNC. It is part of a statewide initiative which seeks to engage local governments and community groups with foreign-born residents to improve relationships, enhance communication and promote newcomers’ civic participation and leadership in local government.
Since 2017, the Town has researched which issues need to be addressed through meetings with 160 immigrant and refugee residents as well as analysis of interviews and data.
Based on this information, the Chapel Hill Town Council identified five key issues affecting immigrant and refugee populations: public transportation, housing, public safety and law enforcement, leadership and government communication.
Sarah Viñas, Chapel Hill’s BIC project manager, said many of the recommendations made by Chapel Hill’s immigrant and refugee residents were consistent, despite the diversity of the actual residents.
Council member Nancy Oates said the listening sessions are an important way to learn how local government and community partners can best support Chapel Hill’s diverse residents.
“I think one of the things that I see as having a healthy, functioning town is to be able to have a lot more diversity and not gear ourselves towards one particular demographic," she said, "So in order to do that, we’ve got to be able to make room for people with different cultures because my observation is pretty much everyone wants a good life for themselves and their families."
Among Chapel Hill residents, 16.5 percent were born outside of the United States, the majority of which were born in Asia or Latin America.
The median household income for foreign-born residents of Chapel Hill is $6,172 higher than it is for those born in the United States – but when this statistic is broken down by citizenship status, the disparity becomes starker. Citizens born outside the United States have a median household income of $106,250, while non-citizen foreign-born residents have a median household income of $46,045.