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Hani White, the new deputy director of Immigrant Affairs and Services. Photo: Peter Fitzpatrick/AL DIA News

Meet the next mayor's immigration and culture appointees

Kelly Lee, Hani White, and Miriam Enriquez.

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"The Lincoln Lawyer"

May 20th, 2022

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On Wednesday, Mayor-elect Jim Kenney announced three appointments to head up multicultural affairs and arts development. Kelly Lee will become the next chief cultural officer in the city's Office of Arts and Culture.

Miriam Enriquez, the former policy director for Councilman Dennis O'Brien, will serve as the director of Immigrant Affairs and Services.

And working closely with Enriquez as the deputy director of the department will be Hani White, who currently works in the Women's Opportunity Resource Center.

“I'm confident that Miriam Enriquez and Hani White will lead Immigrant Affairs expertly,” Kenney said in a statement Wednesday. “Their combined experience in advocacy and public policy will advance Philadelphia's reputation for welcoming newcomers and better serve our current immigrant population. I look forward to working with them on an issue very close to my heart."

Both Enriquez and White have compelling immigration backgrounds.

Born in Philadelphia, Enriquez's family came to the U.S. from Nicaragua, and she spent a good deal of her childhood living in different Latin American countries.

During her time in Councilman O'Brien's office, she helped craft legislation to protect immigration services and those who use them in the city. According to Kenney's transition team, this legislation has since been replicated in other jurisdictions from Pennsylvania to Georgia to Texas.

Originally from Indonesia, Hani White came to the U.S. in 2000 after she landed a job at Walt Disney World in Florida. After the 9/11 attacks, the company closed its doors to international employees. But White wasn’t ready to give up on America.

She found Philadelphia, "an affordable city where I found a job." It was a humbling experience, made possible only by the services provided by the Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians. In less than five years White managed to integrate into the system and become a homeowner, in large part due to the city's "sanctuary" status, she said.

“I am from South Philly and you are from South Philly,” White told Kenney directly at an event AL DIA co-hosted back in November. “We need more economic development for small businesses (...) but the most important as first mentioned is the sanctuary, please stay as a sanctuary city.”

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(For the record, Mayor Michael Nutter recently changed the city's policy on cooperating with immigration agents. Kenney has promised to return Philadelphia's 'sanctuary' status on his first day in office.)

Kelly Lee has previously worked in economic development at Innovation Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania Convention Center Authority. Kenney emphasized her knowledge of Philadelphia's cultural programs and his faith in her ability to “impact it has on the quality of life in Philadelphia's communities and neighborhoods, and how a vibrant cultural sector is essential to the city's ability to attract and retain businesses and a talented workforce.”

Lee is native of Philadelphia who currently serves on several boards at local museums and arts institutions.

The three appointments immediately received some praise from local stakeholders. Gail Harrity, president and COO of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, said that Lee's “professional experience and commitment to the arts in our city provide a strong platform for her public policy and advocacy role for the arts and creative economy in Philadelphia.”

Julie Hawkins, the director of the Arts Administration Program and an assistant professor at Drexel University's school of media arts and design, expressed her confidence that Lee will “increase access for all Philadelphians to our city's wealth of cultural assets, and that she will also leverage strong connections between the arts, the economy, and education to improve our quality of life."

Peter Gonzales, president and CEO of the Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians, looks highly upon Kenney's appointment of Enriquez to head up the immigrant affairs division.

"Miriam's extremely compelling personal story will allow her to connect with immigrant families across the country and send a very welcoming message about Philadelphia,” Gonzales said. "Additionally, her public policy expertise has and will continue to make our city a better place to live for families already here. I look forward to working with her."

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