Strengthening Communities Through Immigrant and Refugee Integration
On July 16, I welcomed over 170 policymakers, practitioners, faith leaders, elected officials, researchers, and business representatives to the first-ever White House National Convening on Immigrant and Refugee Integration.
These leaders traveled from every corner of the United States to share best practices on successful initiatives that cities and counties are deploying across the country. Participants brainstormed new strategies to enhance local, regional and national programs that ensure immigrants are fully participating in and contributing to American society.
Listening to stories of their efforts on the ground was a poignant reminder that our success as a nation of immigrants is rooted in the American values of equality and opportunity. Each and every day, these organizations work to safeguard our nation’s legacy as a beacon of hope and opportunity for people from across the world.
Over the past five years, the Administration has worked to strengthen integration efforts and maintain a dialogue with stakeholders to inform our national strategy on immigrant integration. In 2010, we established an interagency task force made up of key offices within the Departments of Homeland Security, Justice, Education, Health and Human Services, and Labor. This task force identified three pillars—linguistic, civic, and economic integration—to guide all organizational and federal efforts to integrate newcomers into the fabric of our nation.
Since then, the Administration has ensured that immigrants and refugees have tools that empower them to become successful entrepreneurs and engines for innovation and the economy. Through initiatives like the Department of Education’s Networks for Integrating New Americans (NINA) and the Department of Homeland Security’s Citizenship and Integration Grant Program, the Administration promotes diverse, inclusive, and welcoming communities that benefit both established residents and newcomers.
At the Convening, the Administration reaffirmed its commitment to advancing innovative policies in the fields of English language learning, workforce development, and naturalization of qualified lawful permanent residents. But more importantly, this inaugural event gave peer practitioners a platform where they could learn from one another, leverage collective resources, and forge innovative strategies for successful integration.
By shining a spotlight on the incredible achievements of organizations—like Welcoming America and the National Partnership for New Americans—and showcasing examples of cities and state organizations doing great things to strengthen our nation’s economic and civic life, I am confident in our ability to welcome and support individuals working to achieve the American Dream.
Felicia Escobar is the Special Assistant to the President for Immigration Policy in the Domestic Policy Council.