WASHINGTON – The Migration Policy Institute (MPI) announced Thursday that ACCESS, the nation’s largest Arab American human services provider, is one of four recipients of its 2012 E Pluribus Unum Prizes for exceptional immigrant integration initiatives. The national award honors the Michigan-based non-profit for its service to Arab Americans and other immigrants as well as for taking a leadership role nationally in combating anti-Arab stereotypes and building bridges between native and immigrant communities.
Founded in a Dearborn storefront by volunteers in 1971 as the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services, ACCESS now serves tens of thousands of individuals in the metro Detroit area annually, offering a comprehensive array of services to people from origins in the Arab world and beyond – many of whom are clustered in neighborhoods where poverty rates are high and education and English skills are low. From its nine locations, ACCESS offers more than 90 programs, including employment and job training, health initiatives and medical assistance (its health department takes the lead on assistance for refugees who were victims of torture), social services, community improvement, youth leadership and summer camps and after-school education.
The E Pluribus Unum Prizes program, established in 2008 by MPI’s National Center on Immigrant Integration Policy with generous support from the J.M. Kaplan Fund, seeks to encourage the adoption of effective integration practices and inspire others to take on the important work of integrating immigrants and their children so they can join the mainstream of U.S. society.
The 2012 E Pluribus Unum Prizes winners will be honored at a ceremony in Baltimore, MD, on September 24 during the annual National Immigrant Integration Conference. The national award is accompanied by a $50,000 prize.
In addition to its innovative and comprehensive array of wraparound services, ACCESS has taken on a national leadership role, founding the Smithsonian Institution-affiliated Arab American National Museum (the only museum in the United States devoted to Arab American history and culture), the National Network for Arab American Communities and the Center for Arab American Philanthropy.
The Arab American National Museum has a respected library and offers cultural trainings to police departments, students, medical professionals and others while also serving as a national clearinghouse of information and other resources for greater understanding of the rich history, culture and religious traditions of Arab Americans. With the Arab American population under significant pressure since 9/11, ACCESS has used its cultural and educational programs to take on the stereotypes and fears that surged after the attacks and has united Arab American groups and communities while giving them the tools to help dispel myths and better connect with immigrant and native-born communities.
“Many exemplary immigrant initiatives exist within ACCESS,” said Margie McHugh, co-director of MPI’s National Center on Immigrant Integration Policy. “The organization has created an extensive array of well-tailored programs to meet health, education and human services needs in its local community, while at the same time it has conceived and implemented programs of national significance that build understanding across immigrant and native-born communities.”
Said ACCESS Executive Director Hassan Jaber: “ACCESS has innovated at every turn throughout its history to offer a comprehensive array of human services — always with the overarching goal of supporting immigrants and easing their transition and integration into U.S. society at the economic, social and cultural levels.”
ACCESS’ approach to intervention is three-pronged, Jaber said: Family stabilization, civic engagement and citizenship preparation, and integration and building bridges within the community for successful lives.
“It is noteworthy that even as the organization is serving the Arab American community in the metro Detroit area, home to the largest concentration of Arab Americans in the United States, ACCESS has reached out to build bridges and offer services to immigrants in the Latino, African and Eastern European communities that also make Southeast Michigan their home,” said Michael Fix, MPI’s senior vice president and co-director of the National Center on Immigrant Integration Policy.
The other 2012 winners of the $50,000 E Pluribus Unum Prize are Building Skills Partnership, an innovative union-business alliance in California that provides on-the-job instruction to janitors and other low-wage property service workers, and Californians Together, a statewide group that has won important education reforms, including a Seal of Biliteracy that more than 10,000 graduating seniors earned on their high school diplomas last year. The Prizes program’s 2012 Corporate Leadership Award was given to Citi Community Development for its work reducing financial barriers to citizenship.
The Migration Policy Institute is an independent, non-partisan think tank in Washington, D.C. dedicated to the study of the movement of people worldwide. MPI provides analysis, development and evaluation of migration and refugee policies at the local, national and international levels. Its National Center on Immigrant Integration Policy is a crossroads for policymakers, state and local agency managers, local service providers and others seeking to respond to the challenges and opportunities today’s high rates of immigration create in local communities.