San Mateo County becomes first Certified Welcoming county in California

January 31, 2024 — Welcoming America, a national nonprofit organization, announces San Mateo County as a Certified Welcoming place, the first county in California to achieve the designation and the first in the nation to achieve it at the 4-star level (the highest being 5-star).

Rachel Perić, executive director of Welcoming America, said: “We are thrilled to recognize San Mateo County in becoming a Certified Welcoming place, affirming its leadership in building policies and partnerships that enable all those making it home — including people with immigrant and refugee backgrounds — to thrive and belong. We look forward to celebrating and supporting the community’s ongoing efforts to make the county a welcoming place for all.”

Michael Callagy, County Executive Officer, said: “As we celebrate this honor, we recognize that the work of welcoming is never finished and we look forward to continuing to find new ways to empower and support immigrant community members and all who call San Mateo County home. We are a welcoming space, regardless of a formal recognition, but are so proud to be acknowledged on a national scale.”

The designation was announced yesterday at a meeting of the San Mateo Board of Supervisors by board president Warren Slocum and will be celebrated today in a closed event streamed live on Facebook at 11:30 a.m. Pacific Time. The event features remarks by Slocum, Callagy, and Heath Wickline, a member of Welcoming America’s board of directors, as well as a presentation on the county’s immigrant inclusion strategic plan and recognition of partners in helping the county achieve the designation.

San Mateo County is one of 21 cities and counties in the U.S. with the designation. Some of the factors that contributed to its high star designation include:

  • Efforts to alleviate poverty by addressing equity within transportation, child care, and housing, which are noteworthy given the relatively high cost of living. In particular, the County's work to not only improve standards of living, but also opportunities for homeownership in the Harbor Trailer Park. 
  • Civic engagement programs, such as the Community Alliance to Revitalize Our Neighborhoods (CARON) through the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office and the recently created Farmworker Advisory Commission. Both of these programs create opportunities for two-way communication between residents and government staff. 
  • Data collection efforts such as the Immigrant Inclusion Survey help inform both local government departments and community organizations about the needs within the community, contributing to greater access and informed decision making.

Certified Welcoming is a formal designation by Welcoming America for cities and counties that have created policies and programs reflecting their commitment to immigrant inclusion. Since 2017, Certified Welcoming and its operating framework, the Welcoming Standard, have served as a roadmap for local governments seeking to build truly welcoming communities. 

San Mateo County joins a growing list of places receiving the designation under the new star system implemented by Welcoming America last year, making it the first 4-star Certified Welcoming place. The county was also one of three places to participate in the star system’s pilot program. Far from being a “rating system”, the new Certified Welcoming star system creates a roadmap for communities to advance welcoming work with transparency and accountability.


About Welcoming America
Welcoming America is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that leads a movement of inclusive communities becoming more prosperous by ensuring everyone belongs. We believe that all people, including immigrants, are valued contributors and vital to the success of our communities and shared future. Learn more

About Certified Welcoming 
Certified Welcoming is a formal designation for local governments that have created policies and programs reflecting their values and commitment to immigrant inclusion. This innovative program assesses local governments on their efforts to include and welcome immigrants in all areas of civic, social, and economic life in their communities. With a Certified Welcoming designation, communities distinguish their local efforts, build a competitive advantage, and gain access to opportunities to share their welcoming practices on a regional, national, and global stage. Learn more