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6 ways to help immigrants and the entire state

Commentary: Washington state would be much better off if it did more to integrate immigrants into the education system, business and society. Here is an action plan for the new governor and Legislature.
A crowd attends a July 4 citizenship swearing-in ceremony at Seattle's Fisher Pavillion (2007).

A crowd attends a July 4 citizenship swearing-in ceremony at Seattle's Fisher Pavillion (2007). Brittney Bush Bollay/Flickr

Supporters of immigration reform rallied in Seattle on Nov. 8.

Supporters of immigration reform rallied in Seattle on Nov. 8. OneAmerica

Second of two articles. Part 1 is here.

Imagine that you have just arrived in your new country. It’s cold here and your feet break out in a rash because you are not used to wearing socks. Your training as a nurse does not get you a job, even though they need nurses here, because you don’t speak English and you need different credentials. You clean hotel rooms to pay the rent. You want to learn English but waiting lists are long, the programs are far from your house and working two jobs and taking care of your children gives you little time. You know if you are going to succeed here, you must learn English so you keep trying. At the end of the day, you are still grateful, because you have come from a place of war, where your children never had enough to eat. You have a lot to offer this new country and you will do what it takes to succeed here.  You just need a little help to get there.

This is the story of so many immigrants to America. Immigrant waves throughout history have faced similar struggles, despite real differences over time in racial make-ups and the state of immigration law. Newcomers — whether Polish, Irish, Italian or Mexican — have always faced concern about language, a feeling of scarcity and protection of our resources for those who are already here and a general distrust of those who are “different.”

Yet, history and research show us that the integration of immigrants does happen — and can be significantly aided by intentional programs. The faster this happens, the better it is for everyone. This process — which we now call immigrant integration — is naturally a two-way process. Those who are coming here must learn how to apply their skills and survive in a new culture and a new language. Those who are here must watch the environment around them change, hear a new language spoken and allow space for newcomers, trusting that successful integration makes for shared prosperity.

An earlier article, "Why Washington can't wait for immigrant integration," laid the economic, demographic and political context for immigrant integration in the state. This article proposes a specific integration agenda. There are other important opportunities besides the ones mentioned below. Equally important to what we do is simply that we act with full commitment from the state’s political and business leadership.

Washingtonians are eager to support immigrant integration strategies. In 2007, a statewide poll conducted by Lake Research Partners surveyed state residents on key ideas and strategies. Among other findings, 90 percent of voters supported helping immigrants to learn English and 86 percent supported citizenship programs that help eligible immigrants get naturalized. 

Proposed below are six specific ideas for Gov.-elect Jay Inslee and the Legislature to create a Washington that maximizes the potential of immigrants for the benefit of us all. The ideas are based on two important principles.

First, all our strategies should rely on “targeted universalism.” John Powell, director of Berkeley’s Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society, describes targeted universalism to mean using targeted strategies to achieve universal goals, instead of using universal strategies to achieve universal goals. For example, if the goal is universal health care, it is not enough to simply provide insurance to everyone. If poor communities of color don't have facilities of consistent care in their neighborhoods, if there are no interpreters who can assist in health care situations, or if there are other cultural barriers to even stepping  into a clinic, then simply providing insurance does not help very much. Instead, we need to supplement universal goals with targeted strategies based on a deep understanding of the needs, behaviors and motivations of the most vulnerable populations.

The second principle is that we need to break down silos between issues and engage all sectors of our community in seeking solutions through public-private partnerships.

  • 1. Expand public and private sector opportunities for English language learning. English ability is possibly the most important indicator of level of immigrant integration, opening up job opportunities and allowing for engagement with education, healthcare and overall sense of belonging. Today in Washington state, more than 1.1 million people speak a language other than English at home and almost 50 percent of immigrants age 5 and older speak English less than “very well.”

In 2008, the New Americans Policy Council recommended that the state invest in a public-private campaign to expand English language learning as a top strategy. A campaign should use innovative media strategies, including ethnic media, to develop opportunities for English language learning; expand successful existing programs such as the state's Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training (IBEST) to reach more levels of English learners; expand tested innovative models (such as English Innovations, which teaches both computer literacy and English skills simultaneously; and increase access for classes by getting employers to provide English classes and incentives at the workplace.

  • 2.  Stop brain waste. In Washington state, "brain waste” — when college educated people are either unemployed or under-employed in jobs that do not utilize their skills — affects a remarkable 20 percent (about 30,000 people) of all college-educated immigrants in the labor force, according to Migration Policy Institute. I remember meeting a taxi driver who had been a surgeon in Somalia.

As governor, Inslee could immediately direct licensing boards and the State Apprenticeship Council to identify high priority fields where state licensing could be altered to utilize skilled immigrants with previous training while maintaining high standards. He could also create a centralized point of information on licensing procedures, certifications and credentials and support innovative efforts such as the Puget Sound Welcome Back Initiative that helps train and connect skilled foreign medical professionals with jobs.

  • 3. Create or expand targeted immigrant small business incubators. Nationally, one in six new business owners in the U.S. is an immigrant, according to a 2012 study by Fiscal Policy Institute. In 2010, immigrant businesses provided $1.3 billion or 9.8 percent of Washington’s total business income. 

Still, we lack coordinated and funded programs to help new immigrants start businesses. Two 2010 reports by the University of Washington and Seattle University showed that Hispanic, Asian and minority businesses have faced enormous challenges with regulations, red tape and access to credit. Microcredit, business incubators, certification assistance programs, business mentoring or counseling are untapped gold mines to bring more revenue to the state while strengthening the creation of immigrant small businesses.

  • 4.  Naturalize all eligible immigrants. Approximately 140,000 Washington immigrants — the tenth largest number of all states in the country—are eligible to get citizenship but do not because of substantial barriers, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

The Migration Policy Institute estimates that naturalized citizens earn between 50 and 70 percent more than noncitizens and have been able to weather the effects of the recent economic recession more successfully than noncitizens. They also have better job opportunities, participate more in their communities and schools, and consume more.

Washington has a unique and longstanding program, run through the Office of Refugee Assistance (ORIA), that assists low-income refugees in achieving citizenship and brings in Federal dollars for a range of benefits. However, the value of citizenship as an economic development opportunity was only recognized in 2008, with the funding of a successful but relatively small state program, called Washington New Americans. WNA worked with partners across the state, utilized ethnic media, Citizenship Days and enormous amounts of pro-bono legal assistance to provide citizenship services to non-refugee populations and other low-income families.

Inslee and the Legislature should continue the state's significant funding of the ORIA program, while expanding the Washington New Americans Citizenship Program. The Department of Commerce could also fund Individual Development Accounts and include saving for citizenship fees. Engaging banks or credit unions, such as the Boeing Employees Credit Union, could bring people into the formal credit market and provide a mutually beneficial partnership.

  • 5. Focus on kids:  Perhaps one of the most important areas to invest is in our children and their future. Consider these statistics:
  • One in four kids in Washington live in immigrant families; 84 percent of all children in immigrant families were US citizens by birth.
  • Children of immigrants accounted for over one-third of all children in low-income families.
  • In 2010, 23 percent of foreign-born families with children under 18 lived below the poverty threshold, compared to fewer than 8 percent for native-born families. 

Initiatives that ensure health care for all children and allow college-bound undocumented kids to access state-based financial aid are essential.

In addition, Washington must ensure that early childhood and education programs have a targeted focus on immigrant kids. The Road Map Project has taken this issue on by creating a special work group focused on ELL kids in the nine King County school districts covered by the project. Utilizing targeted universalism principles, the state Department of Early Learning should revise its recent policy change that requires home childcare workers to obtain a GED as part of its licensing. This policy ignores the fact that hundreds of immigrant home childcare workers do not need and will not be able to quickly obtain, a GED. Instead, DEL should be thoughtful about designing specific training goals and skills for those caregivers and then creating a process that helps them acquire those particular skills.

  • 6. Push for immigration reform.  Washington must play a critical role in our nation's upcoming 2013 debate on immigration reform. Living in the shadows without legal immigration status is one of the biggest barriers to integration. The fear of deportation, lack of ability to negotiate fair wages, or lack of access to services can squash any other integration efforts. The Center for American Progress estimates that legalizing undocumented immigrants would net $1.5 trillion in additional GDP to the U.S. economy over a decade. Washington stands to benefit tremendously. From legal immigrants waiting a decade or more to be re-united with an immediate family member to our industries that rely on immigrants, America’s broken immigration system is crippling our state.

Inslee and the Legislature should weigh in immediately with every member of our state's congressional delegation, urging them to take a proactive role in ensuring Washington’s future by passing immigration reform. Our immigration policies should reflect our values of family, human dignity and work. Olympia can also help build political momentum by: passing a state resolution on the need for immigration; pulling together top business leaders of corporations based in Washington (Boeing, Microsoft, Starbucks) to push for reform; and conducting an economic analysis of the economic benefits of reform to the state.

This integration agenda is a series of steps toward successful integration of immigrants in our state. Let’s achieve a new level of shared economic prosperity in our state through truly inclusive programs. That’s good for everyone who lives here, and for our state as a whole. 

Pramila Jayapal is a Distinguished Fellow at University of Washington Law School and Distinguished Taconic Fellow at Center for Community Change. You can follow her on Twitter at @pramilaj or email her care of editor@crosscut.com.


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Comments:

Posted Mon, Jan 14, 5:27 a.m. Inappropriate

Once again, an article promoting illegal aliens, trying to conflate the term immigrant and illegal alien. Not all "immigrants" are alike, some are legal, some are illegal, something lost on the author. Those that migrated through the proper legal process, authorized and recognized by the Government of United States are immigrants, those that did not are criminals.

It was interesting to learn about the Washington New Americans program, funded by the State. If it's goal truely is to help serve the illgal alien population and get them to citizenship status, it sounds like a good place to start cutting the illegal gifting to tax funds to illegal aliens.

Cameron

Posted Mon, Jan 14, 5:58 a.m. Inappropriate

Anti-American "non-profit" tax cheats giving "action plans" to our Governor. So he can help facilitate the invasion. Thanks, Democrats.

BlueLight

Posted Mon, Jan 14, 6:13 a.m. Inappropriate

It's interesting that the author leaves off that the WNA program is a partnership between her organization OneAmerica and the State, even as she touts it as effective.

http://wanewamericans.org/

Why is not suprising that the author would hide any obvious conflict of interest in promoting a program and not disclosing how it directly benefits herself and her organization.

Cameron

Posted Mon, Jan 14, 1:24 p.m. Inappropriate

I think it's even more interesting that Cameron is only doing half his research. If he really went to http://wanewamericans.org/, he could have seen that the Washington New Americans helps "legal" permanent residents apply for citizenship.

The focus of the article is on immigrant integration as a whole. The main point is that even "legal" immigrants have a hard time integrating into the U.S. and people need to accept that change is inevitable.

cmdollen

Posted Mon, Jan 14, 1:54 p.m. Inappropriate

What the hell do you mean that change is inevitable? Could you specify what the change you are talking about is?

If some immigrant has a hard time integrating into the US that is the immigrants problem and not ours. Frankly, I do not see many immigrants attempting to integrate into the US. Immigrant integration is not the Citizens problem. Immigrants need to "do as the Romans do", instead of demanding that all citizens pander to them.

jhande

Posted Mon, Jan 14, 5:48 p.m. Inappropriate

Is every non-refugee immigrant a legal immigrant? Do they verify every clients legal status before providing services? That's more thatn DSHS does. I see they lost another 10% of the $262,000 funding in the 2012 supplemental budget, down again from the 09-11 of $562,000 and 5+ FTE's. Basically when Pramillia decided to obfuscate the relationship she verified her true nature as a partisan for illegal behavior who is propped up with Taxpayer dollars, trying to accomplish a mission for legal immigrants that is a duplication of assimilation programs in the Federal Government.

Cameron

Posted Mon, Jan 14, 7:53 a.m. Inappropriate

And is Pramila now receiving a check from our University of Washington? Does David Dicks still have his Party-appointed position there, as well? Hmmm... If the UW wants to play whore for the Democratic Party, perhaps the UW has all the taxpayer money it needs.

BlueLight

Posted Mon, Jan 14, 3:58 p.m. Inappropriate

Shoot, both of the parties promote and enable immigration, both legal and illegal.

jhande

Posted Mon, Jan 14, 7:57 a.m. Inappropriate

I appreciate this article, and don't appreciate the screeching emails from people (no doubt like most everyone in America, the children or grandchildren, or great great grandchildren of immigrants) who seem to misunderstand the basic concept of immigration. The word 'alien' is offensive and inappropriate. Human beings are still humans, no matter where they come from- they are not alien beings. And study after study has shown that immigration, in whatever form, is a net plus for the country, the city, the county. People who take the difficult path of getting into the country from elsewhere, are energized to work and work hard. They usually do work that nobody else wants to do, and do it well. They do not take work from "Americans", but instead create such work- because they help grow the economy. For example, companies like Amazon and Microsoft simply cannot get enough qualified computer engineers in Seattle or elsewhere in the US- so they hope to hire people from overseas.

It is in our region's best interests to help immigrants do what they do best, it is also civil and welcoming behavior, which is not true of the tone of the comments about the article I just read.

thoughts

Posted Mon, Jan 14, 1:58 p.m. Inappropriate

There has been no Environmental Impact Statement, or Economic Impact Statement on immigration. Without this there is no credible study that shows benefit to citizens by immigration.
Lower wages, higher unemployment, and strapped school funds, caused by immigration are no benefit.

jhande

Posted Mon, Jan 14, 8:07 a.m. Inappropriate

Changing the name, doesn't change the status or the behavior "thoughts". American and the vast majority of Americans are very welcoming and supportive of "legal" immigrants. Those who want to undermine the rule of law always try to claim that those who believe in rules, process and orderly immigration as "racist", "mean spirited" or "anti-immigrant". Thoughts, doesn't believe in any rules, just getting what they want, when they want it and having other people pay the costs.

Cameron

Posted Mon, Jan 14, 12:59 p.m. Inappropriate

"Washington state would be much better off if it did more to integrate immigrants into the education system, business and society."

No doubt the state would be better off if immigrants were well integrated into society. The real question is whether the immigrants themselves would be better off. The commercial vapidity of mainstream American culture appears to produce over time some sort of degenerate brain condition. Just take a quick look at the cold, churlish and irrational comments of our little friend true-BlueLight. What self-respecting immigrant would want to be afflicted by a mind like that?

So be careful what you wish for. The strong traditions that immigrants bring with them carry important benefits as well as the obvious burdens. The positive side most often includes a warm and compassionate sense of connection to family and society, traits that in the long run can insulate immigrants against the raw harshness of a barren culture that worships market values above all else. Welcome, but beware.

woofer

Posted Mon, Jan 14, 1:43 p.m. Inappropriate

Parts one and two of this article lay out a principled, substantive and economically astute case for the necessity of immigrant integration programs at the state (and, by implication, federal) level. I appreciate the author’s discerning and data-driven approach to a complex issue with significant moral, economic, and cultural dimensions. It is clear that we all have a role in – and ultimately benefit from – cultivating sound immigrant integration strategies, and it’s refreshing to read a piece that proposes concrete, innovative ways of engaging immigrants, acknowledging the responsibilities of both those doing the welcoming and those being welcomed. With a majority of Washingtonians supporting immigrant integration efforts, what a tremendous opportunity lost if we don’t explore ways of introducing and expanding immigrant integration efforts across the state. Washington is a leader on many fronts – why not on this, as well?

Icarus7

Posted Mon, Jan 14, 2:04 p.m. Inappropriate

There has been no Environmental Impact Statement, and no Economic Impact Statement on immigration. This means that there is no real credible data on immigration. The "studies" are all advocacy papers by the pro-immigrant, or anti-immigrant sides. So, the writer of the article has made no "data driven points" because there is inadequate, or no data.

It is up to the immigrant to integrate. It is not up to the Citizenry to hold the immigrants hand, or pander to the immigrant.

The Citizenry has no "responsibility" to pander to, or pay for immigrant integration programs.

jhande

Posted Mon, Jan 14, 2:11 p.m. Inappropriate

Well there has been an impact study. Oregon State University found that the Number One Threat to Pacific Northwest Salmon and their habitats (like Puget Sound) is immigration into the region; the vast majority of which comes from outside the U.S. and Canada. As every person, irrespective of national origin, eats, drinks, requires shelter, consumes electricity, produces garbage, produces sewage, etc. every person has an impact on the environment in which they live. As we import individuals, we import their impacts. We cannot have our cake and eat it, too. That is a fact no matter how churlish it may sound. One cannot be pro immigration and pro environment.

BlueLight

Posted Mon, Jan 14, 3:35 p.m. Inappropriate

Blue, I am proposing impact studies that encompass the entire United States.

jhande

Posted Mon, Jan 14, 2:19 p.m. Inappropriate

I find the article to be racist. The writer talks about the need for healthcare facilities in areas of poverty; but only those areas of poverty for "communities of color". According to the writer if you are impoverished and not in a "community of color", then you can just go to hell, I guess.

We have no need to do any of the proposal put forth in this article. Immigrants need to take responsibilty for their own integration into the United States. Immigrants who do not have the personal responsibility, or desire, to do this should not be allowed into the United States.

Also, a particularly disgusting idea the article writer has is to have the Citizens pay for programs that benefit only businesses owned by immigrants. That is nonsense.

Part of intgration into the United States is learning to not expect special handouts restricted, and directed to immigrants.

Personally, I do not think that illegal immigration is good for the United States, or Citizens. I also think that the current levels of legal immigration are too high and of no benefit to the United States, or Citizens.

That is only what I think based upon what I have seen, and how immigration has effected myself. We need the Environmental Impact Statement, and Economic Impact Statement on immigration, so we are not arguing about this issue with neither side having facts. That is pointless, and ends up being nothing than arguments of emotion, and racism (racism of both the anti-immigrant, and pro-immigrant factions).

The writer of this article is an advocate, not a thoughtful writer. The attempt is made at propaganda, not to provide truth. The writer, also demonstrates racism. The writer does not belong at the UW.

jhande

Posted Mon, Jan 14, 5:32 p.m. Inappropriate

23 billion dollars sent to Mexico in 2012, without any taxes being paid of course. Throw in the rest of Latin America and Asia and it's no wonder our economy is crippled. The capital for growth is being sent out by illegal aliens who don't care about this country. Laws and regulations are meaningless to them and to that segment of our own population that welcomes and encourages them to come here and trash the nation.

The enablers will babble about what welcome additions to our nation they are. Right. We always need more people who don't believe in the law nor the process of legal immigration. One would think with the mindless drone from liberals about fairness that the mantra would apply to the illegal aliens. After all they pay zero in helping to maintaining things like bridges, schools, etc. But liberals see them as pawns, rewarding them for bad behavior in exchange for votes.

This was one American's solution to the problem and it still is viable.
http://compassrosebooks.blogspot.com/2009/10/edward-abbey-on-immigration.html

Djinn

Posted Mon, Jan 14, 8:30 p.m. Inappropriate

See what the invasion is looking like in your county.

http://www.ofm.wa.gov/pop/migration/default.asp

Check link #2 for county specific information.

We had almost 200,000 immigrants come to our state in the 5 year span between 1995 and 2000.

Welcomed with red carpets by the Party that preaches sustainability. Ha.

BlueLight

Posted Thu, Jul 25, 12:57 a.m. Inappropriate

Migrants law lawyer solutions in the US include both employment-based and family-based immigration solutions. As immigration issues are very delicate and complex, one definitely need the support of an knowledgeable lawyer to deal with them.
private investigators

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