As Citizenship Week comes to a close, it is worthwhile to remember that naturalization is but one step on the pathway to the larger goal of immigrant integration. Immigrant integration is the creation of something new in the places where we live – a more inclusive community that reflects the needs and wants of all its residents. Immigrant integration takes deliberate and on-going work by both the receiving community and the newcomers, and it requires a community to grow and change as it stretches to allow everyone a chance to access services, make an impact, and participate actively. But, the work required pays off handsomely as we move from living as strangers to living as neighbors.
As you contemplate next steps for your program, pause to consider how you and your program can deliberately create the space within your community to allow integration to flourish. Perhaps some of these ideas, currently in place within our network, will inspire you:
|Ideas for Your Agency to Try
||Ideas for Your Programs to Try
- Include immigrant integration goals and objectives in the agency’s strategic plan;
- Align the goal of immigrant integration with the agency’s overall mission statement;
- Deliberately seek to hire a workforce reflective of the members of the community;
- Ensure that members of the Board reflect members of the community;
- Create opportunities, such as focus groups or round table activities, for the immigrant community and the receiving community to let your agency know what services it needs;
- Proactively promote positive stories about new relationships between newcomers and the receiving community through media contacts;
- Host leaders from different sectors of the community in an informal meeting, such as a coffee and chat event, to get to know each other; and
- Establish partnerships with well established organizations that are also focused on immigration integration (parishes, civic groups, Rotary clubs etc.).
- Develop leadership training and opportunities for immigrants;
- Focus training programs on helping immigrants recover their profession in the U.S. or acquire new skills for a new career;
- Host events that provide the receiving community and the newcomers a place to communicate and learn about each other;
- Ensure that voter registration is widely available to naturalized citizens and registration is available at naturalization oath ceremonies;
- Help DACA and other eligible clients open bank accounts and other financial products at a local bank;
- Ensure that community leadership recognizes the needs and contributions of the newcomers and invite them to events. For example, invite the Chief of Police or the Mayor to speak at Citizenship classes;
- Actively break down barriers to newcomer and receiving community interactions. For example, offer a Cultural Companion program where a staff member, such as the ESL teacher, goes to a client’s house to assist them in learning about their community and accessing needed services;
- Invite former clients back to volunteer;
- Establish Lunch and Learn opportunities at various workplaces
Immigrant integration is happening all across the United States, in communities big and small. The CLINIC network is working to include immigrant integration in its programmatic goals and objectives, and we have much more to accomplish. CLINIC is proud to support its affiliates in this work as we continue to be a network of hope.
For more integration resources, please visit CLINIC’s Center for Immigrant Integration, or contact Leya Speasmaker (firstname.lastname@example.org), Integration Program Manager, for more information.