For America to Succeed, Immigrants Must Succeed

By Victoria Benner, Senior Legislative Analyst, Office of Research, Advocacy, and Legislation, NCLR

The reintroduced “New American Success Act” would allow immigrants the chance to thrive.

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New citizens being sworn in at a Kansas City naturalization ceremony earlier this month.

Following on the heels of Donald Trump’s remarks casting immigrants as murderers and rapists, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 3009, the Enforce the Law for Sanctuary Cities Act, yesterday, which would penalize local police choosing to limit their cooperation with federal immigration enforcement agencies. H.R. 3009 would compel sheriffs across the country to abandon best practices in community policing and prioritize immigration enforcement over public safety.

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While some members of the House of Representatives labeled the entire immigrant community as criminals, focused only on misguided enforcement-only solutions to our broken immigration system, Representatives Tony Cárdenas (D–Calif.) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R–Fla.) recognized the contributions of this vibrant population by reintroducing the “New American Success Act.” This legislation seeks to maximize the potential of new arrivals by promoting economic, civic, and linguistic integration into American life.

From the experiences of our Affiliates, we know the full and successful integration of immigrants into the American spheres of work, school, and civic life is vital to the social and economic strength of the United States. Unfortunately, immigrants face considerable challenges obtaining higher levels of education, including industry-recognized postsecondary credentials and certificates as well as the English proficiency they need to succeed in modern career pathways. Additionally, without a public investment in immigrant integration, many do not have the resources or supports needed to navigate legal and other governmental infrastructure. This bill acknowledges that an effective immigrant integration policy can help break down these barriers and ensure each and every resident, including new Americans, is a wholly productive participant in all aspects of our national systems.

If enacted, the “New American Success Act” would authorize two grant programs to facilitate immigrant integration. The Initial, Entry, Adjustment, and Citizenship Assistance Grants are designed to help local community-based organizations provide direct legal assistance and related services to lawfully present immigrants naturalizing or applying for other immigration assistance. Similarly, the Integration Success Grants would fund states and municipalities that create a comprehensive plan addressing civic, linguistic, and economic integration.

Marlene-SeptA previous iteration of the “New American Success Act,” strongly supported by NCLR and other partner organizations, would have created a National Office of New Americans—a federal coordinating body within the White House responsible for multiagency immigrant integration programs. By establishing meaningful goals, indicators, and metrics to measure success at the national, state, and local levels, this National Office of New Americans would advise other federal entities how the United States can best serve its newest arrivals and put them on a path to becoming flourishing Americans.

While the recent work of the White House Task Force on New Americans is a fundamental first step in addressing a comprehensive immigrant integration strategy as envisioned by the “New American Success Act,” the nation needs a permanent office with a strong mandate to continue this work and truly implement the legislation’s purpose of establishing a federal immigrant integration strategy. As the bill moves forward we will work to restore the provisions establishing the National Office of New Americans included in the previous versions of the legislation.

The “New American Success Act” is a positive step toward an enhanced federal policy designed to meet the real needs of new immigrants. As new data show, most American voters don’t view immigrants as criminals, and this bill would help reinforce that belief. Most importantly, it will help ensure the country benefits fully from the skills and talents immigrants bring to the United States.

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