Recently, the Task Force for New Americans which was created under the Obama Administration has unveiled, STRENGTHENING COMMUNITIES BY WELCOMING ALL RESIDENTS -A Federal Strategic Action Plan on Immigrant & Refugee Integration, which is a comprehensive plan designed to outline a better national system to help new immigrants adjust and integrate into their new U.S. communities.
What is the Task Force On New Americans?
Selected by President Obama and his administration, the Task Force on New Americans is an interdisciplinary group that involved several federal departments. The co-chairs and departments included on the official report which was presented to President Obama are:
- Cecilia Muñoz, Co-Chair – Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council
- León Rodríguez, CoChair – Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
- The Corporation for National and Community Service
- The Department of Agriculture
- The Department of Commerce
- The Department of Education
- The Department of Health and Human Services
- The Department of Homeland Security
- The Department of Housing and Urban Development
- The Department of Justice
- The Department of Labor
- The Department of State
- The Department of Transportation
- The Small Business Administration
- The Office of Management and Budget
- The White House Domestic Policy Council
- The White House Office for Intergovernmental Affairs and Public Engagement
- The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy
What is the Mission of the Strategic Plan?
This plan places a strong emphasis on creating connections between new immigrants and their receiving communities. The full report is extremely dense but provides useful information gleaned from the work of the federal departments listed above. It is the hope of the plan that immigrants will be recognized for their potential in enhancing both the U.S. culture and economy.
Excerpts from the Strategic Plan
“The Obama Administration is guided by the core principle that being American is about more than what we look like or where we come from. What makes us Americans is our shared commitment to an ideal — that all of us are created equal, and all of us have the chance to make of our lives what we will. By bringing immigrants, refugees, and receiving communities together around integration strategies, we create communities with a welcoming culture and strengthen our ability to ensure that all community members have the tools and opportunities to succeed and fully contribute to our nation.
In order to ensure successful integration, the Task Force seeks to support and increase the capacity of receiving communities to build welcoming communities. Ultimately, these efforts will require a multifaceted and cross-sector strategy that leverages existing efforts by key stakeholders, all working in partnership with receiving communities.
Integration is not something immigrants and refugees can achieve in isolation; welcoming environments are necessary to ensure successful outcomes that benefit local communities as well as our nation. For effective integration, we need a comprehensive national and local effort that draws on the strengths and capacity of all sectors of society and all levels of government — a “whole of society” approach.
Communities play a vital role in welcoming immigrants by celebrating and valuing their diverse linguistic and cultural assets, connecting new residents to long-time residents, and building support networks to assist in integration and community cohesion. Like any relationship, the relationship between immigrants and their communities must be a two-way process with shared opportunities and responsibilities.
The Task Force takes inspiration from the Welcoming Communities Movement, which engages receiving communities and creates welcoming environments for all community members. This movement is focused on building 21st century communities that attract and retain global talent and investment.”
Goals of the Federal Strategic Integration Plan
The Federal Strategic Integration Plan has several goals it seeks to accomplish. There are specific points/goals highlighted in the overall plan which are seen as vital by the Task Force on New Americans.
Strengthening “Welcoming Communities”
The Task Force will seek to encourage state and local governments in developing better implementation processes for integration of new immigrants and refugees. The Task Force and Obama Administration will support local government with technical support in addition to opportunities which will be made available to participating communities.
Providing Toolkits For Local Communities
Although the Task Force feels their efforts are generally supported by local government, it plans on developing integration strategies and recommendations in order to aid integration efforts. In addition, these toolkits will help local authorities better understand the availability of federal funding initiatives which can help construct integration processes.
Emphasis on New Americans Corps
Because local communities are on the forefront of the federal integration strategy, CNCS will seek to establish a new body of AmeriCorps VISTA members in order to better accommodate the capacity to foster immigrant and refugee integration. This can be achieved by these individuals through fulfilling vital roles in municipal governments, by identifying local needs, by expanding “multisector” networks and assisting in the overall development of local integration plans.
Constructing More Useful Strategies and Practices
Through the federal plan is a step in the right direction, strategies and practices for integration need to be continued to be strengthened. This will be accomplished in several ways. One useful example will be the cooperation between the Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM) and local quarterly stakeholders with the goal of encouraging discussion on integration and developing/disseminating welcome materials aimed at encouraging local community engagement.
Draw Attention to Existing Funding Opportunities
Certain funding opportunities have been made available by the Administration in order to assist welcoming communities with their integration efforts. One example is the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) which provides annual grants with a focus on improving communities overall through making affordable housing available, by providing vital services to community members, creating jobs and expanding/retaining local business.
Link the Promise Zone Initiative with the Efforts of Welcoming Communities
In 2014, the President identified the original Promise Zones and will identify 15 additional Promise Zones by the end of the calendar year in 2016. Promise Zone communities have already begun their engagement with Welcoming Communities’ Initiative. The partnership between the efforts of Promise Zones and those of Welcoming Communities will help local leaders access resources needed to increase jobs, enhance economic development, improve education and reduce violent crime overall.
Ensuring Civil Rights at the Federal, State and Local Levels
The Department of Justice (DOJ) will continue to investigate the difficulties new American families are confronted with such as language barriers which prevent them from obtaining services or enrolling in certain programs. Reminders have been released to state governments and school districts that emphasize their obligations to provide equal education access to those who are learning English.
Increase the Capacity for Low-Cost Services
Current barriers to affordable immigration-related legal services continues to hinder new American families and refugees. The DOJ will issue and circulate new rules which will seek to clarify processed for becoming an accredited legal service provider. The goal of these new rules will be to increase the amount of organizations who can assist these populations.
Combating and Eliminating “Notario” Fraud
Currently, The Federal Partners Working Group is engaged in protecting both immigrants and the immigration process from the Unauthorized Practice of Immigration Law (UPIL). This group is made up of members of different agencies including The Department of Justice, The Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Trade Commussion. Their efforts will include investigation into immigration scams in addition to providing public education on how to identify and avoid notario services.
Promote Productive Relationships and Engagement With Law Enforcement
The DOJ’s Office of Community Oriented Policion Services (COPS) currently provides grants to local law enforcement agencies for the purpose of hiring and training professionals, in addition to developing strategies which will allow for more effective policing. With assistance from the COPS program, local law enforcement can understand local communities better, build relationships and address important issues more effectively. These programs will also have an emphasis on settling agreements with law enforcement agencies and observing compliance.
Hopefully, this new strategic plan will improve conditions for New Americans and refugees in the U.S. Continue to visit Pride Immigration PLLC’s website as we continue to follow this exciting development.
Beeraj Patel, Esq.
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