Shared Humanity, City Branding, and Municipal Immigrant Integration Initiatives in the Southeastern United States

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Publication Date

October 2018


In recent years, an increasing number of places across the United States, including cities in the southeastern US, have launched immigrant and refugee integration and “welcoming city” policies and programs. However, there has been little focus on the scope, implementation, and impact of such programs or on the broader receiving community. This study analyzes qualitative data from three case study municipalities in the southeastern US—Atlanta, Charlotte, and Nashville. Each of these cities have launched a form of municipal immigrant integration initiative referred to as a “welcoming city.” This paper explores how each city became a welcoming city and what initiatives are underway to continue cultivating a welcoming environment. While each city’s leadership may indeed broadly position their city as “welcoming”, motivations for adopting welcoming initiatives broadly fall into either a “shared humanity” perspective and/or economic development. There is a tension among shared humanity and economic development motivations as the primary drivers of welcoming initiatives. This bears out when examining the public documents from the initiatives, public statements from municipal leaders, and programming pursued by the initiatives in each welcoming city. Further consideration of these tensions among groups with different motivations is critical to expand our understanding of urban growth and change in new immigrant destinations.

Journal Title

Southeastern Geographer





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