Philly mayor wants immigrant assistance office to become permanent

A naturalization ceremony takes place at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service in Philadelphia. (Bastiaan Slabbers for WHYY, file)

A naturalization ceremony takes place at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service in Philadelphia. (Bastiaan Slabbers for WHYY, file)

Philadelphia’s Office of Immigrant Affairs could become permanent if Mayor Jim Kenney has his way.

Kenney created the office to promote the well-being of the city’s immigrant communities by executive order. Now, he wants a charter change to make it permanent, said First Deputy Managing Director Brian Abernathy.

“Our city’s diversity is something we should celebrate, and the Office of Immigrant Affairs has certainly helped us do that,” said Abernathy. “Our growth has been spurred on by the immigrant population, it’s had a huge impact on our commercial corridors and the diversity of Philadelphia.”

Abernathy said the process for change may be finished by spring.

“It is not an easy one, but I think we are optimistic that we will have appropriate Council support,” he said. “We’ll need 12 members of Council to approve an ordinance and a resolution. Once they do it, we hope it’s on the May ballot for voter approval.”

With approval and a budget, Abernathy said, the office staff could expand from three employees and a part-time worker.

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