Tag Archive | "Immigration Reform–Connecticut"

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Let’s Stick to the Facts About Immigrants, the New Builders of America

By Ann-Marie Adams

Connecticut has a significant number of foreign-born residents. So perhaps it’s time to create a Commission on Immigrant Affairs — not a “clearing house” as a former politician has been advocating around town. That new organization got off to a bad start when he and his colleagues forgot to invite certain immigrants to a conversation they “kick-started” in October.

Immigrants don’t need more encumbrances or gatekeepers like those to navigate. They need a clear path to innovate and build. This new commission would be crucial to improve and promote economic development, education, health and the political well being of the new Americans with entrepreneurial spirit. The commission, like the Mayors’s Commission on African and Caribbean Immigrant Affairs in Philadelphia, would help clear their path.

Consider this: Of the state’s 3.6 million residents, an estimated 478, 323 are foreign-born. The Nutmeg State has a slightly higher percentage of immigrants, 13.4 percent versus 13 percent, than nation as a whole. In the Greater Hartford area, 78.5 percent of immigrants are skilled, and 30 percent have college or graduate degrees, according to state data.

Dr_AnnMarie_AdamsMoreover, the Migration Policy Institute data show that Connecticut has the highest proportion, 49.4 percent, of foreign-born residents who are citizens. Immigrants from Latin America and the Caribbean comprise the largest share of the state’s foreign-born population. The country of origin with the largest percentage of the immigrant population in Connecticut is Jamaica. Of the state’s total immigrant population in 2011, more than 7 percent were born in Jamaica, 6.6 percent in India and 5.9 percent in Poland.

the-hartford-guardian-OpinionHowever, there has been a shift in the immigration trend from Latin America and the Caribbean origins to Europe and Asia in the last decade, notably from Italy, Canada, Poland, India and China. The diversity of immigrants in the state can be a boon for Connecticut, still recovering from the Great Recession, which was preceded by two decades of no job growth.

President Barack Obama’s recent call to rebuild America’s ports along the Mississippi River and at New Orleans is, no doubt, a strategy to expand trade with other countries and create jobs. Immigrants provide a wealth of knowledge for anyone looking to enter markets in other parts of the world. And that’s why some states in the US are already welcoming immigrants as a stratagem for revitalizing de-industrialized cities, neglected since the late 1950s.

After all, migration has been used since the dawn of time to develop nations and build economies. Economist John Kenneth Galbraith aptly surmised that migration is an economic engine and the oldest action against poverty.  The US bears witness to that. Immigrants and their children, from Andrew Carnegie to Steve Jobs, founded 40 percent of the Fortune 500 companies. Immigrants and their children’s companies employ 550,600 people and generate about $2 billion in revenue. Moreover, immigrants have generated more than a quarter of all jobs in high-growth sectors, according to the Immigrant Learning Center.

Connecticut has its own success stories. Here, immigrants founded General Electric, Pitney Bowes, United Technology Corporation and Edible Arrangements. In Hartford, Albany Avenue and Main Street are lined with small businesses founded by Jamaicans and other immigrants – providing valuable tax revenue for a city in which 52 percent of its businesses are nonprofits. Imagine the possibilities if cities and states knew how to create an effective synergy.

The story about immigrants as builders and job creators is remarkable. And despite the facts present, the false narrative about immigrants as a drag on the economy is pervasive and to the contrary. Most immigrants create jobs and provide labor on farms, factories, hospitals, hotels and schools, bringing revenue to financially strapped colleges and depressed cities across America. Perhaps it’s time we start having informed discussions that stick to the facts about immigrants, the new builders of America.

In the meanwhile, Connecticut and the rest of the country must foster an environment that champions difference and innovation. After all, more than half the country supports this common-sense approach to job creation. And this can only continue with immigration reform. According to a Quinnipiac University Poll, 57 percent of voters favor illegal immigrants staying in the U.S. and following a path to citizenship. Another 12 percent say illegal immigrants should be allowed to stay but with no path to citizenship, while 26 percent say illegal immigrants should be forced to leave.

While thinking about what to do with illegal immigrants, let’s not lose sight of what can be done to encourage our legal immigrants, who for centuries have been boosting the American economy.

All you have to do is create a commission to help foster their growth and get out of their way.

 Ann-Marie Adams, Ph.D. is the founder of The Hartford Guardian. Follow her on twitter @annmarieadams.

© This article and photo should not be cited, copied, or published elsewhere without written permission from The Hartford Guardian and its publisher, CABC Inc.


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Immigration Reform: Who’s In and Who’s Out

By Juan Rocha,  New America Media

In December of 2001, an unknown law professor named Barack Obama lectured on the Civil War Amendments (the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments) to his law school students at the University of Chicago. As he explained how the Civil War Amendments redefined the social contract by transforming former slaves, who were considered three-fifths of a person under the original Constitution, into citizens of the United States, and placed the Union on a path to being a more progressive nation, I, who sat in the audience, began to think that my own transformation from illegal immigrant to United States citizen was the result of a similar reconstruction when President Ronald Reagan and Congress passed the Immigration Reform Act of 1986. More than a quarter of a century after that 1986 act, the country is once again at the precipice of defining who is in and who is out.

The political discourse surrounding immigration reform is about political expediency—Republicans need to recruit Hispanics to the Republican Party—; the economic benefits of immigration, and, of course, border security. (In fact, the bill is titled, “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Modernization Act.”) And when policymakers in Washington refer to the 1986 reform, they remark that it failed in all three categories. The current bill, with its mathematical formulas and percentages, reflects a Congress not wanting to repeat the mistakes of 1986.

But in deciding who can fully share in the American experience, a key question missing in the immigration debate is: what kind of citizens can immigration policy cultivate? From this perspective, the 1986 act was a success and should be seen a standard, not a cautionary tale of passing immigration reform; because it produced hundreds of thousands of students like me — was 12 when I received amnesty– who not only benefited immensely from immigration reform, but later contributed to the life of our communities.

The Immigration Reform Act of 1986 allowed me to skip a generation in my education. Both of my grandmothers were illiterate, my mother, who finished the second grade, could barely write her name, and my father completed only the sixth grade. Against this educational background, and having no legal status, I would have been lucky to graduate from high school. Becoming a legal resident and eventually a United States citizen, however, made me eligible for federal student aid, and enabled me to attend Arizona State University.

In college, I met students from different socio-economic backgrounds who taught me, among other things, not to protect my family from my own ambition, a quiet sacrifice performed by Hispanics students for the sake of the family. College was a microcosm of American society. The knowledge I received from fellow students reshaped my perception of the world, and was central to my personal growth.

Instead of feeling campus alienation—which is something many students without legal status experience in school—college encouraged me to leave the nest. Armed with an American passport, I globe-trotted around the world where I learned of different ethical, religious, and intellectual ways of seeing the world. I also learned about how other people perceived the same world. (In Thailand I learned that Thais think of people from Mexico as elite athletes.) For fear of being arrested by Border Patrol and removed from the country, such mobility was a foreign concept to my family. Before being granted legal status, we never left Mesa, Arizona. I now understand that immobility not only prevents a person from understanding how people come at life from different places, but, more important, leads to societal incest, which contributes to nativism.

Cross-pollinating from American city to foreign country, from foreign country to the university, and from the university to American city, I returned to Arizona to engage in civic life on my own terms; I founded a scholarship, which I named after two of my public school teachers, who were instrumental in my educational development, which I give to a first-generation high-school student attending a four-year university; I use my law degree to teach young people about the American judicial system; and write essays on public policy. Civic engagement, in short, is the bridge that connects my life experiences to ideas on how to improve my community. The 1986 act had the design of responsibility and the stamp of civic duty.

American society has changed demographically and technologically since 1986, but one precept that remains constant is the rights and duties each of us has to one another; in this regard, the 1986 reform succeeded in engendering an active citizenry. When President Obama signs the immigration bill into law (I’m an optimist), he will not need to refer to Nineteenth Century American history to remind us of this principle, he will simply need to point out to the immigrants, who are now Americans, in the audience who embody this principle.

Juan Rocha is a criminal defense attorney in Tucson and holds a JD from UCLA and a Master of Public Policy from the University of Chicago.

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Blumenthal: Immigration Reform Now

HARTFORD — Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn) on Monday at the Center for Latino Progress in Hartford joined the national and bipartisan chorus calling for “comprehensive immigration reform.”

“I applaud the President and my colleagues for starting an honest, bipartisan conversation about comprehensive immigration reform,” Blumenthal said. As a member of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, I look forward to playing a leading role in advancing this reform agenda, which must include a pathway to citizenship for immigrants who qualify particularly our DREAMers.”

Blumenthal said he has been an outspoken advocate for the DREAM Act, which would provide qualifying undocumented youth a pathway to citizenship after completing a college degree or two years of military service.

Comprehensive Immigration Reform would be a tribute to the heritage of the United States, a nation of immigrants, he said.”We need reform now.”

Also present was Jennifer Thampan, Associated Director of Immigration Services for the International Institute of Connecticut, a organization urging comprehensive reform for all 11 million undocumented immigrants.

“Dreamers and our community have made our power known to politicians of both parties and we won’t let up. Yes, Yes we are dreamers, yes we have Deferred Action–but this is NOT enough.”

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