CLINIC views comprehensive immigration reform as an important opportunity to facilitate more immigrant integration opportunities. If CIR will be an historic piece of legislation, it is wise to contemplate how immigrant integration can be promoted before, during, and after legislation is passed. Immigration reform in 1986 was an unfulfilled opportunity for greater immigrant integration assistance because immigrant advocacy and service organizations were few, small, and overwhelmed by the new law’s impact. Immigration reform to legalize up to 12 million people will be a historic opportunity for the United States to demonstrate the strengths of its democracy and rich immigrant culture by establishing a clear pathway to citizenship. Furthermore, the millions of lawful permanent residents currently eligible to naturalize provide another immediate opportunity to advance immigrant integration, even before CIR is enacted.
While immigrant integration chiefly begins and advances through legal benefits, it is important to include English language skills, education and job training, home ownership, volunteer work, knowledge of rights and responsibilities before and after obtaining citizenship, contributions to the United States’ democratic principles, and other factors inherent in immigrant integration.
Wherever immigrant integration is facilitated, either in a legal immigration program, place of worship, school, neighborhood or workplace, it is prudent to consider these principles about integration:
- Integration is a complex social process;
- Integration requires time and should be viewed as a process spanning more than one generation;
- Integration is a multi-directional process requiring the participation and buy-in of the various groups represented in a community, especially the receiving community;
- Integration takes place at the local level and a community’s efforts must be designed with the local community’s characteristics in mind; and
- Integration efforts succeed best when they focus on immigrant and community assets – not only how immigrants struggle.
With the passage of comprehensive immigration reform and expanded immigrant integration as a result, the U.S. society can expect to see the following outcomes:
- Social cohesiveness;
- Social justice;
- Stronger families; and
- Civic participation and equality.
CLINIC'S Immigrant Integration Resources
CLINIC conducted extensive research and interviews to develop a comprehensive plan to naturalize the 8 million currently eligible and respond to the naturalization needs of immigrants who could become eligible in the future if comprehensive immigration reform enables it.
A More Perfect Union: A National Citizenship Plan
Naturalization towards citizenship and civic engagement by immigrants is a high priority for CLINIC and its network of affiliates. CLINIC is noted for its many resources in support of naturalization projects to serve the most vulnerable immigrants in their pursuit of this specific American dream. An on-line resource center that includes a toolkit is available to immigration programs and immigrants.
Immigrant-Led Organizers in Their Own Voices: Local Realities and Shared Visions
CLINIC funded 17 immigrant-led organizing efforts across the country for three years. This report looks at ways immigrants actively pursue integration for themselves and social justice for our society overall.