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Sundial

Mayor Of Doral Says The City Must Teach Immigrants 'The Rules'

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Alejandra Martinez
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Mayor of Doral Juan Carlos Bermudez joined Sundial on Tuesday to discuss the role of immigrants in the city's community.

The city of Doral has a majority immigrant population; 82 percent are Hispanic, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. As of last year, 28 percent of Doral's 59,000 residents are Venezuelan-born, or more than one in four people, according to the mayor's office.

Doral Mayor Juan Carlos Bermudez, who was born in Cuba, says that in order for the city's huge immigrant population to play a role in the region’s economy, newly arrived immigrants must learn the "rules" of the game.

A new study from New American Economy (NAE), a bipartisan research and advocacy organization focused on immigration, looks at how well cities across the country have “integrated” the immigrant population. The report ranked Miami 29th on the list. It looked at the educational attainment of immigrants, the percentage of immigrant entrepreneurs and the number of registered voters. 

Mayor Bermudez was part of a news conference on Monday where the report's highlights were shared. He joined Sundial to talk about the immigrant makeup of Doral, the major economic drivers of the city and future plans.   

WLRN: What are some of the challenges that immigrants trying to start a business are facing in Doral and how is the city working to make sure it's business-friendly to this group?

Bermudez: We do a lot of things through our economic development department, including business seminars for Spanish speakers. There we tell them how the process works and how you apply for a [business] permit. A lot of times the great challenges with foreign business owners is the inability to understand that in the United States there is a process to open up a business, whether it's a business license or credit -- all these things that in Latin America are less of an issue.

Doing business in Latin America is different from doing business in the United States. Bartering is a something you see in Latin America, but we have a system here [in the U.S.]. Do you see any challenges with people who are trying to start a business -- in understanding that it's a system?

It's not an issue of only Doral or South Florida, but the United States. You have to explain to people that there are zoning regulations and you've got to go through a process of inspections. There's a benefit to that because the place has to be safe. In our countries many times that's not really a major factor. So it is a challenge but I think most people that are interested in doing business understand that you know there is a security of doing business in the United States.

Schools work to help English language learners. So Miami is unique because we have such a large immigrant population and so much Spanish is spoken. Is it on the city, beyond schools, to offer courses and opportunities to help this population?

I think it is something that the city should in fact -- when I was mayor the first time we had classes for Spanish speakers to learn English and we're starting that again. I think it's on the city. We [Doral] have a program that our Spanish speaking recent arrivals love, which is called "You Don't Do That Here," Eso No Se Hace Aquí. We have our own residents doing commercials where for example [don't pass on a] red light or there is one where we have a little girl whose mom throws the garbage on the ground and the little girl picks it up and says, "Mom we don't do that here," and then puts it in garbage.

We're trying to get a lot of our new residents to understand that the reason we come to the United States is to combine the best of our culture with the culture of this great country. I think it's incumbent upon all of us in Miami to make sure that we do that. We as a municipality have taken the lead and most of our new residents love and ask for a program. They say we need to teach everybody that's new to this country and new to our community that there are rules and you've got to follow rules.