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NYC offers other cities tips on immigrant issues

New York City is hoping its long history as a hub for immigrants and efforts to support immigrant communities can be useful to cities around the country.

It is bringing together representatives from more than 20 cities to discuss strategies for issues such as making sure immigrants are getting access to government services and how to encourage civic engagement.

As part of the conference that started Thursday the Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs is releasing a series of blueprints highlighting policies and programs the city has undertaken in areas such as economic development, language access and policing in hopes they will offer strategies other cities can adapt for their own purposes.

"Nobody should have to recreate the wheel," said Fatima Shama, commissioner of the office.

"New York has been a continuous gateway" for immigrants, she added. "For cities that are becoming new gateways, we want to help them."

Among examples of New York City's strategies are the executive orders Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed in 2003 that keep city employees from inquiring about a person's immigration status unless required. Another is the 2008 executive order requiring city agencies to implement language access for New Yorkers with limited English proficiency.

"We want to make sure all that we've been able to accomplish is not lost when our administration ends," Shama said, referring to Bloomberg's final term coming to a close this year.

In the coming weeks, the office plans to release additional blueprints on financial services, education, health service delivery and anti-domestic violence steps.

Some of the cities expected to be represented at the meeting include Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, Fort Wayne, Ind., New Orleans and Phoenix.

Shama said other cities have frequently expressed an interest in learning from New York City's efforts.

Its diversity makes it a good example for others, said Mayor Kasim Reed of Atlanta. Noting that Atlanta's immigrant population is growing, he said, "I want to be in front of the issue rather than responding to it."

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