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Update: Adequate transportation a challenge for immigrants

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Updated 1:18 a.m.

GREENSBORO — Omina Elsheikh was born in Greensboro and grew up in a Muslim household.

A rising high school freshman, Elsheikh was in seventh grade when she started to wear a hijab, which is a head scarf. It elicited questions from fellow students.

Are you bald?

Why do you have to wear that?

Do you worship God?

At first, the questions were irritating and overwhelming, she said.

Now 14, she said she would like to see school communities be more culturally sensitive.

Elsheikh, whose parents are from the African nation of Sudan, shared her story Thursday morning at the Phill G. McDonald Governmental Plaza, where the Welcoming Greensboro Committee unveiled its report detailing challenges faced by immigrants in the city.

“If we want to be a greater city, if we want to be a greater Greensboro, we need to work together as one family, as one city, to succeed in all the different areas,” said Jos é Oliva, a Guilford College sophomore who moved to Greensboro three years ago from Guatemala.

Welcoming Greensboro and the American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker group that promotes social justice, spent months talking to members of various immigrant populations to find out their concerns and get suggestions on how to improve their lives here.

“We talked about what people like about living in Greensboro, what the biggest challenges are for people in Greensboro and what suggestions immigrants in our community have to make Greensboro the most welcoming and inclusive city we can be,” said Lori Fernald Khamala, the director of the N.C. Immigrant Rights Program.

Immigrants shared that they were challenged by language barriers, lack of transportation, discrimination and limited access to city services.

Transportation was one issue that popped up time and again, Khamala said. She said immigrants would like to see public transportation expanded to housing communities that are heavily populated with immigrants, and for city buses to travel to public schools so parents without driver’s licenses or cars could participate in their children’s educations.

Oliva said he would like to see the area’s university leaders come together to find ways to help immigrants navigate the higher-education system.

Other recommendations speak to policy and immigration reform that Khamala said city officials couldn’t address immediately but could take steps toward supporting.

The Greensboro City Council in April unanimously passed a resolution declaring the city a welcoming one for immigrants and refugees.

Love Crossling, the director of Greensboro’s human relations department, accepted a copy of the report from Welcoming Greensboro. She said the Human Relations Commission’s International Advisory Committee would review the report and relay concerns to the city.

“Some of these recommendations,” Crossling said, “are on a spectrum.” 


Posted 12 p.m. Thursday

The Welcoming Greensboro Committee today released a 50-page report detailing challenges faced by the city's immigrant community and recommendations for how the city can improve opportunities for immigrants.

The recommendations include ways to help immigrants gain better access to city services and agencies, such as expanding public transportation to areas in the city dense with immigrant populations.

The report follows the Greensboro City Council's April 14 resolution declaring the city a welcoming one to immigrants and refugees.

The Welcoming Greensboro Committee and the American Friends Service Committee unveiled the report during a news conference held at Governmental Plaza. They gave a copy of the report to Love Crossling, director of the city's human relations department.

To view the full report, visit www.afsc.org/greensboro.

Contact Jonnelle Davis at (336) 373-7080, and follow @jonsieNR on Twitter.

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