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Welcoming Week recognizes Indiana’s growing immigrant population

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Welcoming Week is in full swing.

It’s another chance to recognize the ever-growing immigrant population in Indiana and around the country. Advocates say, as we do that, it’s important to recognize our history as immigrants to this land.

There are several events slated for the rest of the week, merging with the start of Hispanic Heritage Month, which begins Thursday.

An Immigrant Welcome Center representative says Indiana’s immigrant population have seen increases in Afghan, Haitian and Congolese populations.

Although we’ve made strides in making Indiana communities more welcoming, Hoosiers have room to grow. It’s a simple but clear message: “No matter where you are from, we’re glad you’re our neighbor.” It’s on display by the dozens outside Indianapolis Public Library’s Central Library, 40 E. St. Clair St., the home base for the Immigrant Welcome Center.

Gurinder Kaur, chief executive officer of the Immigrant Welcome Center, said, “How do we make these individuals who are coming from such diverse backgrounds to feel welcomed in our communities?”

In partnership with the national organization Welcome America, Indianapolis is one of multiple cities recognizing Welcome Week. It’s a call to action, encouraging people to embrace people from different walks of life through a series of community events, including yoga, citizenship day lunches, and story times highlighting stories from various cultures.

“It makes our community more vibrant, and it makes people like me who are immigrants. I have now lived in Indiana since 1998,” Kaur said.

She says, as an immigrant, she’s seen the challenges and noticed the improvements, but believes we’ve got a long way to go.

“They are making our communities more welcoming. However, let’s remember xenophobia continues to exist in our communities,” Kaur said. “So, that’s why these Welcome Week events are just as important to make sure that each and every individual, despite the language they speak, despite the culture, or their documentation status, is just as important and should be welcomed into the community.”

“We are all making an impact on the vitality of our community,” Kaur said.