A yard sign welcoming immigrants in English, Spanish and Arabic has arrived in the city of Napa — nearly 3,000 miles from its original home.
The sign reads: “No matter where you are from, we’re glad you’re our neighbor.”
Local politicians say the sign — which has been spreading across the U.S. and appearing in dozens of cities — is new to the Napa Valley, but welcome nevertheless.
“I haven’t seen that sign before but I like it,” said Napa Mayor Jill Techel.
“I like it because someone cared enough to put it up,” Techel said. “Napa is full of people who truly care about others and work to make it a great place to live.”
American Canyon City Councilmember Kenneth Leary’s reaction was more subdued. When asked if he would like to see the sign in his city, Leary said: “My gut reaction would be a yes.”
“However,” he continued, “what appears to be [a] simple message of inclusion may not spark the intended result.”
Leary said “simple statements with engagement, education and a willingness to grow” may just fall on deaf ears, or even worse “create a backlash.”
The pro-immigration sign — printed in green, blue and gold — was spotted recently on the corner of Redwood Road and Linda Vista Avenue, one of Napa’s busier intersections.
Similar, but not identical versions have also appeared in north Napa along West Pueblo Avenue, as well as other parts of town, according to Napa City Councilmember Scott Sedgley.
The signs on West Pueblo Avenue bear nearly the same message. They read: “No matter where you’re from, we’re glad to be your neighbor.”
The message is printed in English and Spanish, but not Arabic. The West Pueblo signs also have a different look, featuring elements of the American flag — stars and stripes — in the background.
It is unknown who posted the sign at Redwood and Linda Vista. It was not in someone’s yard, but planted among landscaping adjacent to a traffic light pole.
What is known is the sign did not originate in Napa. It is a replicate of one first printed two years ago in Harrisonburg, Virginia, by the Immanuel Mennonite Church. Since then the sign has gone national.
The sign was born out of the church’s philosophy to “reach out to our neighbors and neighborhoods, welcome those who come from different backgrounds and places, and practice hospitality through the open doors of our communities,” according to Welcomeyourneighbors.org, a website that tells about the sign’s history.
The church’s pastor, Matthew Bucher, came up with an idea to “share a simple message” with the surrounding neighborhood, where the three main languages spoken are English, Spanish and Arabic.
This was back in August 2015, “in the midst of a national dialogue that was strikingly negative about immigrants,” the website states.
The very first sign, painted by hand and posted in the church’s front yard, contained the message: “No matter where you’re from, we’re glad you’re our neighbor.”
From there it grew into a “movement” that “serves as a tangible signpost encouraging” people to “build bridges of connection, and practice hospitality,” according to Welcomeyourneighbors.org.
Sedgley agreed with Techel that the sign is a welcome addition to Napa.
“I was encouraged by the neighbors who displayed them being reassured of the good that does exist,” said Sedgley. “Mother always told us not to say unkind things, and positive messages foster good will among our friends.”
Without naming names, he added: “I imagine the message is in response to some of our electeds saying unkind things about human imagination and its impact.”
Elected officials in American Canyon said they have not seen the sign in their city yet. But its message would fit in nicely, said Councilmember Mark Joseph.
“I’d love to start seeing them here,” he said. “We have our own version, so to speak, with the ‘we [heart] everyone’ in AmCan sign,” referring to the sign printed by City Hall and available to all residents.
“But the more, the merrier,” said Joseph. “I think the message is great.”
Leary said human migration is part of “our inclusive human history” in which people are sometimes “seeking greener pastures.”
“We all came from somewhere else,” he said.
Having the signs in American Canyon wouldn’t be a bad thing, Leary added. He’s just not sure how effective they might be.
“I would not object to these signs around town,” said Leary. “Nonetheless, I doubt their ability to change anyone’s mind.”