Strengthening Communities by Welcoming and Integrating Immigrants and Refugees
This was originally posted on the White House Blog.
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 serve.gov/newamericans. 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.