MOIMA’s xCultural Passport to PHL Week Emphasizes Growth in “Brotherly Love” Towards Immigrants



Andrea Van Grinsven, for GPA -- The Mayor’s Office of Immigrant and Multicultural Affairs (MOIMA) will host the second xCultural Passport to PHL Week this year from September 14 to 21. It will serve as a week full of events that celebrate immigrant heritage, highlight Philadelphia’s cultural diversity and promote the city as a destination for new Americans.

With 2014’s xCultural Passport Week, MOIMA plans to put forth an even more extensive week of multicultural events than the inaugural Passport Week held last September. In 2013, the week consisted of 27 events, with a 10 to 17 ratio of MOIMA-produced events to collaborative or pre-existing events. So far, MOIMA has filled this year’s calendar with 34 events and aims for an equal ratio of MOIMA-produced events to partnership and outside events.

The week’s agenda is tailored to attract both foreign born and domestic Philadelphians with events that all communities will enjoy, including ethnic food specials, sports tournaments, panel discussions, museum exhibits and music and dance performances. The planning committee sought out immigrant-owned restaurants to participate in the multicultural bar crawl and ethnic food week, and a wide representation of cultural groups to perform at LOVE Park. The events will bring together Philadelphia’s diverse groups for a week of mutual appreciation and exploration.

175,000 immigrants reside in Philadelphia, making up 12 percent of the population, according to a 2014 report by The Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians. The region’s immigrant population also spans a more diverse range of nationalities than the national average. Mayor Michael Nutter’s 2013 creation of MOIMA and rapid growth of MOIMA’s xCultural Passport Week mirrors the growing initiative by the city to further integrate this immigrant population.

Supporting leadership in immigrant communities is important in order for groups to increase their capacity to advocate for themselves, said Executive Director Jennifer Rodriguez at MOIMA’s July 14 planning meeting. MOIMA and the Philadelphia Museum of Art will host grassroots leaders for a VIP Cocktail Reception at the museum on September 17 during xCultural Passport Week. Rodriguez anticipates that this event will provide an opportunity to close the gap between the city and community leaders.

There are an estimated 50,000 legal permanent residents in Philadelphia who are eligible to become citizens, but have not taken the necessary steps to naturalize, according to The National Partnership for New Americans. Immigrants face a multitude of challenges when seeking to naturalize, namely a lack of affordable legal services, lack of English proficiency, and fraudulent immigration services. Helping immigrants overcome these obstacles and achieve greater civic participation is at the forefront of MOIMA’s citizenship initiative. xCultural Passport Week promotes this effort at the invitation-only naturalization ceremony during the Citizenship Day Ceremony at the Constitution Center.

Under Mayor Nutter’s leadership, Philadelphia has become increasingly accommodating to immigrants. In June, Mayor Nutter served as an honorary board member of’ Immigrant Heritage Month campaign. In April 2014, Mayor Nutter signed an executive order to cease “ICE holds,” detentions that often result in deportations for minor crimes. This policy is in line with MOIMA’s initiative to amend the lack of trust of the city’s police from immigrant communities and promote community safety. Improving language access, highlighting immigrant contributions and facilitating integration are other key priorities of the MOIMA office.

By hosting xCultural Passport to PHL Week every September, Philadelphia participates in National Welcoming Cities and Countries Week. The event’s time frame also incorporates other national and international celebrations, including: Hispanic Heritage Month, International Day of Peace, Constitution Day and Citizenship Day.

MOIMA’s xCultural Passport to PHL Week highlights Philadelphia’s as a city that welcomes immigrants as it becomes increasingly multicultural.

“We really want to raise Philadelphia’s profile with this event,” said Deputy Executive Director Fernando Trevino.

Photo courtesy of MOIMA.