Governor Deval Patrick today signed an Executive Order to launch the New Americans Initiative to identify and build a series of policies designed to integrate immigrants and refugees, and create the educational opportunities that lead to economic success, greater levels of citizenship and civic engagement.
«Massachusetts is and has always been a Commonwealth of immigrants,» said Governor Patrick. «We must work together toward a shared vision of a brighter future for all residents. Although immigration reform and enforcement is a federal issue, today’s reality is that states can and must find creative ways to better integrate immigrant and refugee populations through more coordinated services, including English language classes, job training and citizenship assistance.»
The Governor’s New Americans Initiative is a proactive, multi-year civic engagement process that will tap the vision and expertise of government, faith, business and community leaders to create a coherent policy agenda for the Commonwealth that emphasizes immigrant and refugee integration and recognizes the needs of host communities that receive and accommodate them.
Specifically, the Executive Order No. revitalizes the Governor’s Advisory Council on Refugees and Immigrants, and the Massachusetts Office for Refugees and Immigrants (MORI). Comprised of key community, business and academic leaders and representatives from state government, the Council will present the Governor with recommendations for a comprehensive immigrant integration agenda within 10 months.
The Governor has also expanded and strengthened MORI to carry out the Council’s recommendations and actively coordinate the Commonwealth’s policies and programs for refugees and immigrants in partnership with other state agencies and local governments. MORI will also work with the Governor’s Office of Civic Engagement and the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition to develop a network of community-based organizations across the state that will coordinate a series of community meetings to foster productive public dialogue between immigrant and refugees and their new host communities.
Once the policy recommendations are approved by the Governor, the New Americans Executive Order will require state agencies and offices to work with MORI to develop New Americans plans that address the strengths and needs for greater access in areas including but not limited to citizenship assistance, employment/workforce training, English language proficiency, education, civil rights, fair housing, healthcare and public safety.
«The Patrick Administration is committed to engaging immigrants and refugees completely in the economic, social and civic fabric of the Commonwealth,» said Secretary of Health and Human Services Dr. JudyAnn Bigby, whose Secretariat oversees the Office for Refugees and Immigrants. «By working together across state agencies and with key leaders, we can ensure that all residents of Massachusetts contribute in meaningful ways to their communities.»
MORI Executive Director Richard Chacn added, «Immigrants and refugees play increasingly key roles as consumers, entrepreneurs and workers in Massachusetts. The rapid increase in the Massachusetts immigrant population brings both benefits and challenges to the host communities and to the state, and we need a comprehensive policy agenda for a more coordinated plan to integrate and support our immigrants, refugees and local communities trying to accommodate them.»
Massachusetts’ New Americans Initiative has already attracted the support of national and local foundations: The Carnegie Foundation, Barr Foun