A new report shows Dallas immigrants are struggling with homeownership, job opportunity and access to healthcare.
The 191-page “Welcoming Communities: Immigrant Incorporation in Dallas, Texas” study was a collaboration between the University of Texas at Austin’s Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs and the City of Dallas.
Immigrants comprise a quarter of Dallas’ 1.3 million residents and 32% of the city’s metro area.
“Immigrant incorporation takes some time. Whether we have equity also hinges in general on whether we have equity across all people in society,” said Ruth Wasmen, a professor with the University of Texas at Austin’s Lyndon B Johnson School of Public Affairs and director of the report.
For nine months, Wasmen and 16 public policy graduate students worked with the City of Dallas and researched immigrants’ level of civic engagement, quality of life and access to highly-skilled jobs.
Low job opportunity for immigrant residents
In 2017, Dallas became one of two dozen cities in the U.S. and the first in Texas, to establish “Welcoming Communities” to promote the social and economic inclusion of immigrants. The program works to ensure immigrants feel valued and “participate in creating stronger communities with equal opportunity.”
“We did a lot of asset mapping of where things are in Dallas and where things are in relation to the areas that are immigrant rich,” Wasmen said. “We found some areas where there needs to be some improvement.”
The city of Dallas ranked low when it came to job opportunities, specifically how much immigrants participate in the labor force and their rate of employment. The report points out one reason for the low job opportunity score: the large number of immigrants who are working low-skill jobs and have little to no job advancement opportunities.
The study looked at neighborhoods like Oak Cliff and Vickery Meadow, where there are high densities of immigrants. It revealed the unemployment rate in Oak Cliff is 7.2% and Vickery Meadow’s is 6.2%, which are higher than the national rate of 5.9% or the countywide rate of 5.2%.
Researchers said immigrants reported being happy in Dallas and that job opportunity was a motivating factor for why they left their home countries and immigrated.
“It just gives a lot more understanding of the nuances that will be required to tweak our current policies because it is a lot more than putting a name on a sticker and saying you’re welcoming,” said Liz Cedillo-Pereira, the City of Dallas’ Chief of Equity and Inclusion.
She said the work is being done, pointing to the city’s high ranking on measures like integrating immigrants into government leadership. But Pereira recognizes there’s still work to do.
The study recommends city leaders provide more job training, vocational ESL classes and create more affordable housing options.
Got a tip? Alejandra Martinez is a Report For America corps member and writes about the economic impact of COVID-19 on marginalized communities for KERA News. Email Alejandra at [email protected]. You can follow Alejandra on Twitter @_martinez_ale.