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Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Gainesville became Florida’s first city to granted the title of a “Welcoming City” on Thursday.

Commissioners passed a resolution by unanimous consent to make the city more immigrant-friendly at the City Commission meeting. This was the third and final hearing to pass the title.

Paula Roetscher, a UF geography and sustainability studies senior, will become executive director of the nonprofit Welcoming Gainesville, Inc., which was incorporated in December 2015. She told commissioners what it means to become a welcoming city.

“A welcoming city is one that welcomes immigrants and foreigners no matter where they come from,” Roetscher, 21, said.

Mayor-Commissioner Pro Tempore Craig Carter asked if the resolution was necessary.

Roetscher replied Gainesville is already diverse and full of international students. By adopting the title, Gainesville will set an example for the rest of the state, she said.

“We can make it known to everyone,” she said. “This is a title not just given to anyone.”

Commissioner Harvey Budd said this title is relevant to him as an immigrant.

“A lot of the world doesn’t know we’re an international city,” he said. “In real business terms, it will make a difference in marketing this place.”

When the commission allowed for citizens to comment, officials from UF’s International Student Services offered support, while other residents thought the resolution was dangerous.

Darlene Pifalo said Gainesville is already friendly.

“I feel it’s an inground for illegals coming into the city,” she said.

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Contact Molly Donovan at mdonovan@alligator.org and follow her on Twitter @Mollyidonovan.

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