Monday, August 17, 2015

Building Integrated Communities, Year 2: Identify Key Issues, Develop Strategies

After a year of information gathering and public meetings, the Building Integrated Communities (BIC) project is ready to identify key issues affecting residents of Hispanic origin in Sanford and Lee County.

A collaborative program of the Institute for the Study of the Americas and the Center for Global Initiatives at UNC-Chapel Hill, BIC is a grant-based initiative that helps local governments successfully engage with immigrant and refugee populations.

To assess Sanford’s needs, the BIC committee surveyed local immigrants and U.S.-born children, conducted three public meetings, and worked with local agencies and nonprofit organizations. “There was tremendous participation in this process,” says Hannah Gill, program director. “Sanford had the highest response rate of any municipality, city, or county that we work with in the state,” she notes.

Results of Year 1

The BIC team is currently drafting an assessment report and executive summary that will be publicly available in both English and Spanish. The report is a compilation of all the research, data, and communications collected over the past year.

The report will also offer a community profile. That profile will share crucial demographic information – such as that 22.4 percent of Sanford residents are of Hispanic origin and 19.2 percent of Lee County residents are of Hispanic origin. “This information is key to understanding the specific needs of the Sanford/Lee County community,” Gill says.

Speaking to Sanford City Council at the August 12, 2015 meeting, Rev. Erika Martinez-Flores, director of Jonesboro United Methodist Church’s El Refugio, thanked Council members for recognizing immigrants as part of the community.

BIC’s outreach “shows that immigrants are a vulnerable population in this society, but that we are also a group that has grown deep roots and we are productive workers with great aspirations for a much higher quality of life than we could hope for in our native countries,” Martinez-Flores expressed.

Addressing the immigrant population’s needs is “a great, great task, but [Sanford City Council] has already taken the first step by listening to us,” Martinez-Flores said.

“The areas I’ve learned are lacking the most are communication and representation,” expressed BIC committee member Santiago Giraldo. “That is clearly visible in every area of essential services – medical, security, and infrastructure,” he said.

“The city has put a lot of money into infrastructure but now is the time to focus on the people,” Giraldo said. “We are proud to be here. We want to be part of your community. We’re just asking for a chance. Now is the time to bring us out of the shadows and allow us to be part of the community.”

Next Steps

In years two and three of this multi-year initiative, the BIC team will evaluate the data they’ve collected to establish and refine priority issues, says Jessicalee White, BIC researcher and  program coordinator. "We’ll work with municipal and county staff, local agencies, and the public to develop strategies to address those issues."

The team will then create an action plan, implement that plan, and then evaluate and document the strategies’ impact on local immigrants.


For more information about Building Integrated Communities, visit the Latino Migration Project’s website or contact Sanford/Lee County Planning Director Marshall Downey at 919-777-1114.

Watch the BIC presentation to Sanford City Council here.


  1. Would love to hear actual details of such an important study.

    1. The report will be published on our website in both English and Spanish as soon as it is available.