Office of Public Engagement

Two Ways to Think About Immigrant Integration

Recently I traveled to Phoenix, Arizona to speak at the National League of Cities (NLC) Congress of Cities and Exposition.  Over 2,000 mayors, city council members and staff from all over the country attended this annual event.

The 2011 NLC Congress of Cities in Phoenix focused on cities finding and sharing solutions that move communities forward and lead them through economic hard times. Throughout the conference, speeches, workshops, and remarks focused on the issues of economic growth and development. I had the great opportunity to address these matters through the lens of immigrant integration and spoke about the various initiatives underway by the Obama administration to address this critical issue in partnership with communities around the nation.    Critical to these efforts is the need to reform our immigration system; I was so gratified to hear so many of the speakers who preceded me give strong calls for Congress to get to work on Comprehensive Immigration Reform.   This is a priority for the President, and a major piece of an overall effort to integrate immigrants into communities and to strengthen communities around the country.  WH Blueprint for Immigration Reform

As part of our immigrant integration efforts, earlier this year, the White House held roundtables with administration officials, stakeholders, and community leaders to discuss the best community approaches to integrating immigrants, including those provided by the New Americans Citizenship and Integration Initiative.  These discussions have provided a chance for Administration officials to highlight organizations interested in and already integrating immigrants linguistically, civically, and economically into their new American communities. 

By showcasing a few examples of cities and states doing great things to help their immigrant populations become active participants in society, I highlighted ways state and local governments are working to successfully integrate newcomers into their communities.  In addition to demonstrating how we are working to improve coordination with federal agencies so they can be better partners with cities and towns. 

Engaging in deliberate efforts to integrate new immigrants into American society honors our best traditions as a nation of immigrants and a nation of laws.   Immigrants strengthen our nation’s economic and civic life, and it was tremendously heartening to be in a room full of thousands of civic leaders who are engaged in this work, and recognize its importance to their communities.   Most of all, I am grateful for the leadership of the National League of Cities and its members in the effort to reform our immigration laws.   In the end, addressing our broken immigration system is the best way to ensure that immigrants who come to the U.S. are here legally, and in the best possible position to maximize their many contributions to our nation.

To learn more about the NLC Congress of Cities, and hear my presentation, click here.

Cecilia Muñoz is the Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs.

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