- Posted byon April 17, 2015 at 9:58 AM EDT
“For more than 200 years, our tradition of welcoming immigrants from around the world has given us a tremendous advantage over other nations. It’s kept us youthful, dynamic, and entrepreneurial. It has shaped our character as a people with limitless possibilities — people not trapped by our past, but able to remake ourselves as we choose.”
— President Barack Obama, November 21, 2014
On Tuesday, April 14th, the White House unveiled the Task Force on New Americans report, “Strengthening Communities by Welcoming All Residents: A Federal Strategic Action Plan on Immigrant and Refugee Integration” The Task Force represents a critical step toward realizing President Obama’s goal of better integrating the 41.3 million foreign-born individuals living in the United States. To most effectively help immigrants and refugees contribute fully to our economy and their communities, the Task Force offers key goals that the federal government will attempt to address through 48 recommended actions it will take. The goals and recommended actions cover four areas, including civic, economic, and linguistic integration as well as efforts to build welcoming communities.
The Obama Administration will work closely to engage with business, community, and faith leaders, as well as State and local elected officials to implement these actions and determine additional steps the federal government can take to ensure its programs and policies are effectively serving diverse communities. Mayors and local officials from across the country have vocalized their support for the Task Force on New Americans, and many business leaders and community organizations have pledged to join the President in building welcoming communities.
This report is an important step. But there is much more to be done, including through passage of comprehensive immigration reform, which President Obama continues to strongly support.
Here is a look at what business leaders, local elected officials and community leaders are saying about the Task Force on New Americans.
“As a very fortunate immigrant who became a citizen years ago, I understand the challenges that my immigrant employees face when applying for citizenship. The work that my hotel does to help them earn citizenship is critical, but the work the Task Force is doing has the opportunity to help millions of green-card holders become citizens.”
— Robert Hill, General Manager, Intercontinental Miami
“With more than 500,000 employees eligible to become citizens, Miami is one of the cities that stands to benefit the most from the goals outlined by the White House Task Force on New Americans. In order to help our city reach her fullest potential, we must be willing to commit to helping new Americans attain the opportunities, skills and status they need to reach their fullest potential.”
— Wendy Kallergis, President and CEO, Greater Miami and the Beaches Hotel Association
“Our hotel has been helping its immigrant employees earn citizenship for over a year now, and we’ve been doing it partly because it’s good for our bottom-line. Helping more lawful permanent residents with the citizenship process through these findings will help the Miami economy grow and help maintain and grow our city’s workforce.”
— Jonathan Plutzik, Chairman and Owner, The Betsy – South Beach
“The Task Force's recommendations provide a smart framework to advance the economic, linguistic and civic integration of new Americans into every aspect of our society. From Boston to Los Angeles to New York to Seattle, cities worked in close collaboration to contribute to this report, and we are thrilled that it reflects the lessons from our shared experiences on the front lines. Our cities are taking action, and looking forward to the full implementation of President Obama's executive actions on immigration, which are critical to the continued growth of our economy and the vitality and strength of our communities.”
"As a global city, Los Angeles' economic success depends on integrating our hard-working immigrant communities into our civic tapestry, and that's why I established a Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs. I am honored by the White House's recognition of my commitment to keep our city and country prospering and proud that our work serves as a model for other cities."
“Boise is a city built by immigrants, including my own Basque ancestors. That process is still happening today through our city’s three decade-long role as refugee resettlement community. The White House’s recognition today of the Neighbors United partnership confirms what Boiseans have long known – that our city’s vision for supporting the integration of all of our residents into the fabric of our community and our economy makes us all stronger. Boise has long been a place where people came from around the world to find economic opportunity and build a better life.”
“Our neighborhoods are stronger and safer when every individual feels valued and included in their city’s social and economic fabric and every child has access to the American dream. Today’s report released by President Obama’s Task Force on New Americans focuses on actionable steps communities can take to build bridges between long-time residents and newcomers and I look forward to incorporating the Task Force’s recommendations to support our local integration efforts in Atlanta.”
“The City of Boston is proud to be a city of immigrants, and I am proud to be a son of immigrants. Through the Mayor's Office of New Bostonians, our City has extensive experience in promoting the integration of our foreign-born residents. Therefore, with the input of multiple City departments, I submitted recommendations to this Task Force focusing on Public Health, K-12 Education, Economic Development & Small Business, and Adult Education & Workforce Training. I am honored that the White House has recognized Boston as a leading City in fostering a welcoming environment so that all members of our communities have opportunities to contribute and thrive.”
“This report reaffirms what we in Dayton already know, our cities and economy are stronger when we allow people to fully integrate into our communities. We are proud to again be recognized as a model for the national Welcoming movement that is vital to the Country’s success.”
“Our goal, since the creation of Welcome Dayton, is to ensure all of our residents, including new Americans, feel welcomed, have access to needed services and can take advantage of Dayton’s many opportunities.”
“We applaud the White House for recognizing that immigrant and refugee integration make our country stronger and that the federal government can and should do more to support the burgeoning movement of welcoming communities across the country. These efforts are at the cutting edge of helping our country remain economically competitive and culturally vibrant – the kind of place that people from around the world want to come to start a business, invest in communities, and make a better life for themselves and their families. This national policy is the first of its kind and affirms our nation’s leadership as a beacon of freedom and opportunity for all.”
“NPNA applauds the Task Force for their thoughtful report, including chapters on welcoming communities, citizenship, and economic and linguistic integration.”
“This is the absolute right step – as a country we must focus on providing solutions for the 8.8 million lawful permanent residents who are eligible to become citizens today. It’s important for our business leaders, their workers, and our communities. I urge the White House Task Force on New Americans to make good on actions like these that will help new Americans attain the opportunities, skills and status they need to reach their fullest potential.”
— Ali Noorani, Executive Director, National Immigration Forum
“The transformative potential of this action plan can hardly be overstated. For the first time in our nation’s history, it institutionalizes the principles of immigrant integration in the highest office of our land, the White House, thus enshrining in deed what our words across the ages have often said — that immigration is a core part of this nation’s character, of its exceptional place on the world stage.”
— Eva Millona, Executive Director, Massachusetts Immigrant & Refugee Advocacy Coalition
“Community colleges stand at the forefront of immigrant integration – we provide ESL and civics classes, guidance, and citizenship help to immigrants in our communities. The citizenship process can be complicated which is why these recommendations by the White House Task Force on New Americans are so critical. We’re committed to the social, civic, and linguistic integration of immigrants.”
— Teresita Wisell, Vice President and Dean of Continuing Education and Workforce Development, Westchester Community College
“We are pleased with the Task Force’s initial set of recommendations to promote the successful incorporation of millions of new immigrants into the fabric of our society, and we are anxious to see them turned into action.”
“The recommendations proposed by the Task Force on New Americans are a critical first step in moving our nation forward by making the naturalization process more accessible for the 8.7 million eligible legal permanent residents living here today. It is important that we continue to uphold our values as a nation by continuing to strive to provide new Americans with the opportunity to contribute fully to our nation’s rich civic and economic life.”
— Arturo Vargas, Executive Director of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) Educational Fund
“There is a crucial element of the immigration story that is too often ignored – the barriers preventing millions of eligible immigrants from becoming American citizens. The New Americans Campaign applauds the efforts to encourage naturalization and to help lawful permanent residents achieve their American dream.”
- Posted byon April 16, 2015 at 11:35 AM EDT
When the President participated in his first Summit of the Americas six years ago, he promised to foster an era of cooperation between the U.S. and the region as equal partners, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. After six years of expanded engagement and stronger economic and cultural ties, the President has made good on his commitment.
We are in a new chapter in our relationship with the Americas. The evidence of stronger engagement is everywhere – in the number of high-level trips and visits to the region, our rising trade, and investment figures, and in the way we engage our regional partners on global issues like climate change and increased educational opportunities for young people.
This is the message that President Obama brought to the 7th Summit of the Americas, highlighting the significant progress including the new policy towards Cuba representing a turning point for our entire region. At the Summit, President Obama met with President Castro – the first meeting between the two nations after more than 50 years of a policy of isolation – to discuss ways to address our future together. President Obama focused on ways to promote greater opportunity for the Cuban people and our continuing work towards reestablishing diplomatic relations. President Obama and President Castro acknowledged that while our governments continue to have differences, we can continue to make progress towards our mutual interest of greater opportunity and prosperity for all our people.
The President also met with the leaders of the Central America Integration System (SICA) to discuss ways to pursue economic integration and growth, violence prevention, transparency and good governance in Central America. He reiterated his commitment to working with Congress to secure $1 billion to support the US strategy for greater security and prosperity in Central America as a way to address factors that contribute to significant immigration from the region.
In collaboration with our Caribbean and Central American partners, we also took new steps to invest in clean energy and combat climate change. The Clean Energy Finance Facility for the Caribbean and Central America (CEFF-CCA) – a $20 million facility – will encourage investment in clean energy projects and reduce carbon emissions across the region. Early-stage funding will be provided to promote increased private and public sector investment in clean energy in the Caribbean and Central America.
At the Summit, President Obama also met with Brazilian President Rousseff. As two of the world’s largest democracies, the leaders discussed a vast array of issues such as climate change, energy, defense cooperation, U.N. peacekeeping, and education. President Obama announced that Rousseff will visit Washington on June 30th, which will provide an important opportunity to further strengthen the strategic nature of our partnership. In his meeting with Colombian President Santos, both leaders expressed their appreciation for the level of commitment and cooperation between the U.S. and Colombia in the fields of security, technology, education, and particularly the support of the U.S. during the on-going peace talks, through a U.S. special envoy.
The United States is focused on an inclusive, opportunity-based agenda in the Americas. Prior to arriving in Panama, President Obama visited Jamaica where he announced the Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative (YLAI) This initiative will help young entrepreneurs and civil society leaders across the entire region access the training and the resources and connections they need to start new ventures, including the small businesses that create jobs.
The 2015 Summit of the Americas demonstrated the global importance of the region and the progress we have made over the last two decades to improve people’s lives. In this new chapter of engagement with the Americas, our region’s leaders must continue to work together, focusing on pressing issues that need our attention and action, so that we redouble our commitment to a more prosperous, safe, sustainable, equal, and democratic Western Hemisphere.
- Posted byon April 15, 2015 at 1:41 PM EDT
Immigrants and refugees have come to our shores in search of opportunity and freedom since before the founding of our nation. The process of integrating into a new land – to achieve self-sufficiency, political and civic involvement, and social inclusion – can be difficult but the rewards can be immense. We are both children of immigrants and can attest to the success that stems from successful integration into the fabric of our nation.
Yesterday, we had the honor of submitting to President Obama a report from the Task Force on New Americans entitled Strengthening Communities by Welcoming All Residents: A Federal Strategic Action Plan on Immigrant and Refugee Integration. This plan outlines a robust federal immigrant and refugee integration strategy that will advance our global competitiveness and identifies ways to ensure our nation's diverse people are fully contributing to their communities, and welcomed into them.
Established by President Obama as part of the immigration accountability executive actions announced in November 2014, the Task Force is comprised of 16 federal departments, agencies, and White House offices. Its work was extensive, fast-paced and – most importantly – rewarding. To prepare this action plan, we conducted an assessment of existing federal integration initiatives, engaged with stakeholders at the local and national levels, and solicited recommendations from the public.
Our initial strategic action plan provides, for the president’s consideration, specific recommendations which are intended to help:
- Build welcoming communities
- Strengthen existing pathways to naturalization and promote civic engagement
- Support skill development, foster entrepreneurship, and protect new American workers
- Expand opportunities for linguistic integration and education
One of the most effective ways for gaining a sense of belonging is to help those in need within your community. Recognizing the positive impact of volunteer and national service, the Task Force has revitalized a New Americans Project to encourage volunteerism among all Americans, including U.S. citizens and those who are new to the nation. You can support the initiative, by visiting WhiteHouse.gov/New-Americans. This website provides a ZIP-code based search engine that identifies local organizations in need of volunteers.
Although submitting this action plan to the president was an important milestone, it is just the beginning of our work. Task Force members will begin implementing the recommendations outlined in the action plan over the coming months. Our partners can anticipate our continued engagement with key stakeholders – those who are working diligently each day in communities across the country – as we further refine and review the plan. We look forward to providing the president with an update on the Task Force’s efforts in November 2015.
We are proud of the work we have done to identify and establish common-sense solutions that move President Obama’s vision of building welcoming American communities that integrate immigrants and refugees forward. Immigration is an issue that is critical to our nation’s continued economic success and global leadership. Welcoming immigrants and refugees reflects our proud traditions and distinctive characteristics. We are, after all, a nation of immigrants.Cecilia Muñoz is Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council. León Rodríguez is Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
- Posted byon April 13, 2015 at 3:33 PM EDT
Ed. note: This is cross-posted on the U.S. Department of Agriculture's blog. See the original post here.
Every parent’s wish is for their children to thrive and prosper. Yet, too many of our nation’s families still live in poverty, despite doing their best to make ends meet. Rural families and children have additional challenges as schools, health care services, healthy food choices, jobs, and other opportunities are often miles away in a different town, county, or even state. The Obama administration is committed to these families, and believes that all children — no matter where they live — should have an opportunity to succeed.
Today, President Obama and I met with eight members of the National 4-H community in the Oval Office. Each one of them had an inspiring story about how they are opening up new doors for kids in their hometowns, and how this work is building stronger communities where they can learn, play, and grow.
We wanted to take a moment to introduce you to these young leaders and tell you about the projects that encouraged President Obama to invite them to the White House to say “thank you.” Investing in kids like these is an investment in America’s future.
Opportunity for All: White House Rural Council Launches “Rural Impact” Effort to Help Rural Children and Families SucceedPosted byon April 13, 2015 at 12:11 PM EDT
President Obama believes that every child should have an opportunity to succeed. Yet some rural kids are falling behind—or worse, starting behind. A full 85 percent of our country’s persistent poverty counties are in rural America. Lack of opportunity for rural kids and families is often compounded by other challenges, including distance from health and early learning programs, lack of access to public transportation, and higher rates of drug and substance abuse, among others. But for all kids, the road to successful adulthood relies on a strong foundation of access to basic health, nutrition, high-quality early education, strong schools, and support from parents and caregivers.
Rural Impact is a new effort from the White House Rural Council to address the challenge of rural child poverty by bringing together federal agencies and public and private resources. Rural Impact focuses primarily on a multi-generational approach to how public and private resources are invested in rural families and communities. With support from the President, Cabinet officials, universities, foundations, non-profits and community groups, Rural Impact will focus primarily on three major areas:
- Innovation: Developing new approaches of program delivery, including integrated services and remote health and learning technology, to address rural challenges and barriers;
- Awareness: Enhancing public awareness of rural child poverty and its impact on the future of rural communities and our nation’s global competitiveness; and
- Investment: Improving access to high-quality child care, early learning, and continuing education, and making work pay.
- Posted byon April 3, 2015 at 10:23 PM EDT
For the seventh year in a row, President and Mrs. Obama hosted the annual White House Seder. The Seder provides an opportunity for the First Family to join in retelling the story of the Israelites’ arduous journey through the desert from slavery in Egypt to liberation in the Promised Land. In recounting the story, they joined their guests in performing the Seder rituals and followed the Haggadah’s command that we see ourselves as though we personally were liberated from Egypt. And they acknowledged how this story has inspired generations of Americans in the struggle for civil rights.
This year’s Seder continued a new tradition of having a guest chef. Susan Barocas, one of the inaugural guest chefs from last year – and Washington-based filmmaker and foodie – returned again this year to assist White House Chef Cris Comerford with the meal and brought new additions to the menu, including Moroccan Haroset Balls from the Sephardic tradition, and dishes emphasizing seasonal ingredients, including beets, squash, spring onions, radishes, arugula, potatoes, and sweet potatoes. These recipes were combined with family recipes provided by several of the Seder’s attendees.
- Posted byon March 30, 2015 at 7:53 PM EDT
Eighty-eight years ago, a man of extraordinary heart, courage, and understanding was born. On March 31st, we celebrate not only the birthday of my grandfather, César Estrada Chávez, but more importantly the spirit of civic engagement and social justice he espoused throughout his life.
César Chávez was raised amongst migrant farm workers who experienced difficult conditions working in the agricultural fields. Men, women, and children received little pay for backbreaking labor and dreadful environments. These farm laborers lacked simple necessities such as access to drinking water, health care, and a livable wage. Many lived in scanty shacks made of tin, without electricity and cramp, unsanitary conditions. Children were raised into a vicious cycle of poverty. Life expectancy for farm workers was 49 years.
My grandfather dedicated his life to organizing and giving a voice to these voiceless laborers, who were often too afraid to advocate for themselves, for fear of punishment or losing their job. Many did.
Organizers had previously tried to unionize to create more humane conditions for farm workers but unfortunately were largely unsuccessful. Yet, César Chávez believed in an idea that America is all too familiar with – that with hard work, determination, and purpose, our dreams of a more prosperous and just society can become reality. Despite the widely conceived notion that the status of farm workers would never improve, my grandfather developed a “yes we can” or what he coined a “Si Se Puede” attitude. That attitude was contagious. He galvanized a movement that captured the attention of an entire country and even internationally.
For decades, despite setbacks and difficulties, he preserved that spirit. Due to this, I consider myself to have lived a privileged childhood, not in wealth, but in experience. Surrounded by some of the country’s top organizers, I spent my childhood at incredible meetings, participating in picket lines, and right beside my grandfather handing out leaflets outside of super markets. It was tough work, but we made an impact in the lives of people. And that’s what it was always about, “it’s not about grapes or lettuce, it is always about people” he once said.
In many ways, César Chávez’s spirit is alive and well across the country. The fact that people are organizing and using non-violent action to raise awareness about critical issues facing our nation is a testament to the legacy my grandfather left. Today, we must continue to strive to ensure that everyone, regardless of where they’ve come from or the community they reside in, can have access to quality education, a living wage, and affordable healthcare. We must continue to fight for an immigration system that protects immigrants from labor abuses and celebrates the invaluable contributions they make to our local economies and communities. Our work is not finished and the road to progress is not easy, but we have and will continue to make progress.
On César Chávez Day we celebrate the legacy of a champion for social justice and we acknowledge the determination of those who continue his work today. As we endure through the setbacks and rejoice during the impactful victories, we might find comfort and motivation in the words of my abuelo, César Estrada Chávez:
“It is possible to become discouraged about the injustice we see everywhere. But God did not promise us that the world would be humane and just. He gives us the gift of life and allows us to choose the way we will use our limited time on earth. It is an awesome opportunity.”
- Posted byon March 30, 2015 at 12:42 PM EDT
Anne Wojcicki is being honored as a Champion of Change in the Fight Against Parkinson's Disease.
I am humbled to be named one of the White House Champions of Change and to be in the company of such luminaries in the quest to conquer Parkinson’s.
Taking risks in the name of change is important, especially in health care.
I co-founded 23andMe with the belief that the combination of science, social media and you, the consumer, could change research and ultimately create new paths for treatment and prevention. In a short time we have built what is now the world’s largest community of genotyped Parkinson’s patients. This has allowed researchers to discover dozens of new genetic associations for Parkinson’s, and helped give scientists new insight into the disease .Our researchers are investigating not just the genetics that increases one’s risk for Parkinson’s, but what genetic variants may be protective against the disease. We have partnered with non-profit organizations, academic researchers and pharmaceutical companies all in a multi-front effort to make breakthroughs.
I am most inspired by the members of our Parkinson’s research community. They contribute something far more valuable than money: information about themselves. By enabling individuals to come together and share their genetic information and information about themselves, we have the opportunity to make new discoveries and cures at a much faster pace. This is what most excites me about the novel research platform 23andMe pioneered.
Directly involving consumers in researchers is new, and what we have learned is that people are eager to participate in research. Sometimes the best of humanity comes out when we are sick; no one wants to see another suffer in illness. When 23andMe asks people for information about themselves to contribute to research on disease, we see significant participation. So what I have learned after eight years is that there is incredible opportunity before us to gather enough knowledge from the community that we can transform our understanding of health and disease.
My own family has a genetic risk for Parkinson’s, so this mission is personal. Discovering how to prevent or how to treat Parkinson's disease is important for my family and my children. I don’t want to wait for the system to come up with an answer. I want to be part of the solution.
I want to thank the 600,000+ individuals who are currently participating in 23andMe research. They have helped power breakthrough discoveries in Parkinson’s and other diseases. That is incredibly important to me, and hopefully the information I have contributed about me will power the discoveries that help the disease research that is incredibly important to you. We’re all in this together.
Anne Wojcicki, CEO of 23andMe, helped co-found the direct to consumer genetics testing company in 2006 after a decade spent investing in healthcare. 23andMe has built one of the world’s largest databases of individual genetic information.