Chula Vista Mayor Mary Casillas Salas with the welcoming flag
Chula Vista Mayor Mary Casillas Salas (left), Councilmember Jill Galvez and City Attorney Glen Googins outside city hall with the welcoming flag.

Chula Vista became the first certified immigrant welcoming city in California, marking the event on Tuesday with a ceremonial flag raising.

The designation is granted by the nonpartisan group Welcoming America, a Georgia-based nonprofit, to local governments that meet the rigorous requirements for immigrant inclusion.

“I am so proud of our staff, community leaders and partner agencies for contributing to efforts that support and celebrate our immigrant communities,” said Chula Vista Mayor Mary Casillas Salas. “It is an honor to be the first in California to be designated a certified welcoming city.”

Chula Vista completed an intensive evaluation to earn the certified welcoming designation, which is good for three years.

According to research by New York-based New American Economy, more than 13% of immigrants in San Diego County’s second-largest city were entrepreneurs and 23% had a bachelor’s degree or higher.

“As a border community, Chula Vista’s commitment to creating an inclusive environment is a model for other pragmatic leaders who want their communities to engage in the global economy and ensure that residents of all backgrounds — including immigrants– can thrive and belong, ” said Rachel Peric, executive director of Welcoming America.

The organization noted that immigrant-owned businesses often play an out-sized role in revitalizing neighborhoods through entrepreneurship, reversing population decline and home ownership.

Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.