Napa Valley Community Foundation Opens Dialogue on Immigration
May 24, 2012
Anne Vally was with The James Irvine Foundation from 2000 to 2013, last serving
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Earlier this month, I was part of an event in Napa County that shows why a creative and resourced community foundation is one of the most important assets a community can have. More than 150 civic leaders, business people, teachers and community members attended a gathering hosted by the Napa Valley Community Foundation to talk about immigration and look at a new report the community foundation commissioned that examines the fiscal and economic impact of immigrants in the region.
To most of us, Napa Valley brings to mind wine and tourism; and indeed, those are two of the most important industries in the county. But because the Irvine Foundation seeks to expand opportunity for disadvantaged Californians, I also think of changing demographics when I think of Napa County.
Napa will experience one of the most profound demographic shifts in the state over the next 40 years. The Latino population is estimated to grow from 23 percent to 70 percent of residents by 2050, and Napa will become the first county in the Bay Area to have a Latino majority. How the community handles these shifting demographics will be critical to the county’s economy and quality of life. Will the community welcome this increased diversity or will it become a source of division? Will public schools be able to close the achievement gap between Caucasian students and students of color, or will inequalities become exacerbated?
Throughout the U.S., many conversations about immigration have become polarizing, and communities find it difficult to discuss immigration and changing demographics in a civil, thoughtful and solutions-oriented way. This is where a community foundation can lead the way.
As the Napa Valley Community Foundation’s CEO, Terence Mulligan, explained at the event I attended, “We believe that Napa County can do better if residents are given the facts about immigration and are brought together to openly discuss them.”
Indeed, the conversations I was part of at the event were positive, constructive and community-minded. Here are some of my takeaways:
- Today’s Latino immigration to Napa County is one of several historical waves, and immigrants help shape the unique economy of Napa county, contributing up to $1 billion annually to the region’s GDP.
- Latino immigrants in Napa County are laying down roots and becoming upwardly mobile. Napa’s poverty rate is lower than the state average. And while immigrants are only 23 percent of the population, they are 33 percent of the workforce
- Latinos are younger than the native Caucasian population. Nearly half of K-12 students in Napa are children of immigrants. And yet, there is a clear achievement gap between Latino and Anglo students which, if unchecked, will affect the future of Napa’s workforce.
- Business owners and civic leaders showed an eagerness to help immigrants become citizens and benefit equally from educational and economic opportunities.
As a program officer who works with community foundations around the state, this event reminded me of the unique way that a community foundation can provide the right tools and space for community members to come together and find pragmatic solutions to seemingly polarizing issues.
- Read a recent Irvine report looking at how California community foundations are taking leadership on tough issues. The report, Learning to Lead, is from Irvine’s six-year, $12 million Community Foundations Initiative II, in which the Napa Valley Community Foundation was a grantee.
- Watch a series of videos that the Napa Valley Community Foundation produced to examine the effects of immigration on the region.