SILER CITY — The Immigrant Community Advisory Committee (ICAC) met last Wednesday to discuss three main topics to help the immigrant community of Siler City.
ICAC, composed of Chairperson Hannia Benitez, Vice Chairperson Norma Jisselle Perdomo, Danubio Vazquez Rodriguez and Victoria Navarro, with Siler City Community Development Director Jack Meadows talked through transportation, housing and communication.
These three topics are part of their “2023 Priority List of Recommendations,” which will be presented to the Siler City Board of Commissioners in December to better serve immigrant residents.
The committee, which has not met since March 8 due to lack of quorum — which means there wasn’t enough committee members able to attend — started by discussing transportation, specifically pedestrian transportation.
ICAC acknowledged in its March meeting there are transportation projects in the works, specifically the Third Street rerouting project, but there are other areas in Siler City not as safe and accessible to pedestrians, Navarro said.
They consulted a list of priority projects created by the town of Siler City at a Triangle Area Rural Planning Organization meeting, which was then scored by N.C. Dept. of Transportation (NCDOT).
“DOT uses that scoring to help fund transportation projects,” Meadows said.
These projects have an estimated cost range between $600,000 and $3 million. Those scored projects, however, differ from the priorities of the community.
If some of these pedestrian projects make it onto the State Transportation Improvement Plan, the federal government would provide 80% of funding and the state would provide the last 20%, Meadows said. However, if projects are not placed in this plan, local funding would need to be sought out, he said.
Meadows said to have local funding — for example private funding or grants — for future pedestrian projects, the committee could focus on the community priority list. Benitez proposed to call it “Community Priority Projects.” But to get funding from the state, they would need to abide by the NCDOT priority list.
The committee then turned its attention to housing issues, with a focus on housing discrimination and rent cap plans.
Benitez gave an example of a community member who had their rent raised twice in a year without fixes being made to their home, highlighting the issue of rising rent prices in the area.
“A lot of immigrant community members are very vulnerable to these kinds of situations,” Benitez said.
Rent is increasing in Pittsboro, and residents are being forced to move to Siler City. This, in turn, raises rent in town, pushing out residents who can no longer afford the prices, Benitez said. The immigrant community is particularly susceptible in these cases, she added.
Benitez suggested reaching out to the immigrant community and encouraging them to share their experiences of discrimination — especially regarding housing— with the board of commissioners. This would encourage Siler City Commissioners to advocate and support victims of discrimination, Benitez said.
The ICAC’s conversation surrounding housing segued to communication because, for some non-English speakers, it can be hard to communicate with the town without access to documents in their native language.
Documents available in English should also be available in Spanish and other languages to prepare for the new wave of immigrants making their way to the community with the county’s expanding business landscape, Benitez said.
Benitez mentioned the Language Access Plan, which “requires Federal agencies to examine the services they provide, identify any need for services to those with limited English proficiency (LEP), and develop and implement a system to provide those services so LEP persons can have meaningful access to them,” according to Limited English Proficiency.
ICAC can recommend to the town commissioners to start preparing through the Language Access Plans — which already has several guides for addressing communication challenges — for a higher influx of non-English speaking residents, Benitez said.
These conversations will help ICAC come up with a formal list of recommendations to present to the town commissioners in December 2023.
ICAC’s next meeting will be on 6 p.m. on Wednesday, June 7, in the courtroom at Siler City Town Hall.
Intern Valeria Cloës can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.