What is The New Americans Agenda?
Massachusetts is taking the lead – along with a handful of other states like Maryland, New York, Illinois, and Washington – to ensure that immigrants have affordable and accessible avenues for integration into American society. Since July 9, 2008, when Governor Patrick signed Executive Order 503, the Massachusetts Office for Refugees and Immigrants (MORI), the Governor’s Advisory Council for Refugees and Immigrants (GACRI), the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition (MIRA), and other community organizations have been partnering to create and implement a series of recommendations that proactively integrate a growing and diverse immigrant community into the economic and civic life of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
Ultimately, according to MIRA, attaining citizenship is the best indicator of successful integration. It is no small task, considering the process involves an application and fee of $680, a background check, an understanding of American civics, and proficiency in the English language. The latest census confirms that more than half of the foreign-born residents in Massachusetts are now US citizens, which equates to slightly more than 500,000 of the 983,000 foreigners living in the state. Nationally, the number of foreign-born residents seeking citizenship runs about 6.6 million. All of this translates into growth opportunities for businesses and society as a whole.
New Americans Benefit our Economy
When interviewed for an article in The Boston Globe, Joel Barrera, Deputy Director of the Boston Metropolitan Area Planning Council, said that approximately 20,000 naturalized citizens are added to the state’s population every year because immigrants want to settle into communities, open businesses, and become Americans. Although there is a segment of society that is pushing back against the New Americans Agenda, it is important for everyone to recognize the benefits, both economic and cultural, that immigrants bring to our shores. Contrary to public belief, the vast majority of immigrants in America are here legally and they represent a youthful, vital workforce. And as a largely native-born, baby-boom generation grows older, immigrants will shore up the economy by earning more income, paying more taxes, and consuming more goods.
Highly Skilled New Americans
According to the American Immigration Council, highly skilled immigrants are also vital contributors to American innovation and job creation. Records indicate that in 2009, almost half of the graduates earning PhDs in engineering in Massachusetts were not born in the U.S. and that more than two-thirds of patents at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) had at least one foreign inventor. Add to that a host of immigrant entrepreneurs like Charles Mwangi, from Kenya, who owns and operates a specialized medical transport business in Woburn, and Klara Sotonova, from the Czech Republic, who started Klara’s Gourmet Cookies in Lee and now distributes cookies to 120 specialty and high-end grocery stores in several northeast states, and the economic value of immigrants becomes clear.
New Americans Contribute to Our Culture
But immigrants are more than economic statistics; they also enhance our country’s tapestry of art, music, dance, food, and cultural traditions. Although many once endorsed the notion of the United States being a “melting pot” where citizens shed past cultural traditions to become mainstream citizens, the time has come to embrace the “tossed salad” concept, which suggests a place where varieties of colorful and unique heritages can be mixed into one nation while each part retains its distinctness. After all, diversity has always been a thread in our nation’s history. Now it is time to recognize and embrace the strengths of our uniqueness.
To learn more about the New Americans Agenda in Massachusetts and how you can participate consider reading a blog about the New Americans Agenda written by Wendy Pease, owner of Rapport International, or perusing the following resources:
- The National Partnership for New Americans
- Massachusetts New American Agenda
- Maryland Council for New Americans
- Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights
- Illinois New Americans Office of Policy and Advocacy
- City of Chicago New American Initiative
- City of Columbus New American Initiative
- U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service
- New York City’s YMCA New Americans Initiative
- The Cisneros Center for New Americans