Immigrant Advancement in a New Political Landscape

This week we feature a guest post from Ashok B. Boghani, ESC of New England’s Board Chair.

I attended a Forum at The Boston Foundation on April 19th. Titled “Our Shared Future: Charting a Path for Immigrant Advancement in a New Political Landscape,” the program provided a platform for discussing many issues related to this timely topic.

Alvaro Lima, Director of Research, Boston Planning & Development Agency, and an immigrant from Brazil, set the stage by presenting results of a study he has done on the impact created by immigrants. The study covered both Boston and Massachusetts. Needless to say, immigrants are one of the key reasons for the success our home state has enjoyed. Some of the key takeaways are:

  • The foreign born accounted for all population growth in Boston 1980 to 2000
  • The foreign born hold 27% of jobs in Suffolk County
Foreign-born workers generated 24% of Suffolk County’s economic output in 2015

In addition, Alvaro had some fascinating statistics that are not widely reported. For example, between 2000-2011, immigrants to the US have come with over $1.5 trillion worth of education provided in their home countries.

The panel discussion, which followed Alvaro’s presentation, included: Eva Millona (ED of Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition—MIRA and an Albanian immigrant), Abdulkadir Hussein (CEO of African Community Economic Development of New England, and a Somali immigrant), Veronica Serrato (ED of Project Citizenship and daughter of Mexican immigrants), Jerry Rubin (CEO of Jewish Vocational Services), and Alejandra St. Guile (Director of Mayor’s Office for Immigrant Advancement). Stephen Chan (VP of Strategy and Operations at The Boston Foundation, and a Chinese immigrant) moderated the Panel.

The discussion began with the challenges the current administration poses for the immigrant community. The actions already taken, and the rhetoric of what is to come, have created fear and discouragement among people who have provided enormous benefits to Massachusetts and Boston. The simple fact is that we need immigrants to continue growing and prospering. Industries such as technology, food services, and healthcare would suffer enormously if some of what President Trump is planning to carry out comes to pass. The brief talk by Abdul Hussein was most poignant, as the President has included Somalia in the list of black-listed countries. Somali families are broken apart and even the Green Card holding Somalis are afraid to venture out of the country.

Once the challenges were presented, the discussion focused on what we can do to meet them. Eva Millona articulated a list of six things we can all do to address this major crisis:

  1. Help the Green Card holders get citizenship. That’s the only way to guarantee survival. There are some 300,000 Green Card holders in the state, and ignorance of the process as well as cost of citizenship has prevented them from becoming citizens.
  2. Provide access to post and secondary education.
  3. Work toward getting home country credentials recognized in US (e.g., for practicing medicine). This will increase the availability of doctors and healthcare providers.
  4. Focus on workforce training and development (e.g., ESOL in targeted business areas).
  5. Support entrepreneurship. Immigrants have started 60% of new businesses in Massachusetts. This is a path to success.
  6. Help improve personal and family economic stability (lending circles, financial planning, funds for family whose breadwinner is deported).

Other panel members added specific actions as well:

  1. Look at every policy through the lens of immigrants…e.g., create a housing policy that assists immigrants displaced by the gentrification of a neighborhood.
  2. Get the business community to actively participate. Immigrants have benefited it significantly, and it would suffer the most by doing nothing. These are technology as well as service businesses.

We at ESC are ready to do our bit in meeting these challenges. We are dedicated to serving the community by providing the expertise to help nonprofits succeed. We are already helping several nonprofits that assist the immigrant community become more effective and resilient. Nothing will please us more than an opportunity to be of help to numerous other organizations that are devoted to “charting a course for immigrant advancement.”